For the first time the Academy has confronted institutional racism in the film industry. Rarely do Blacks, Latinos, and Asians win oscars. Non whites will have a smattering of wins here and there and generally films that have non whites in prominent roles are not nominated for the oscars. The Academy claims it's awarding the best artists awards. By giving out these awards they annoint who they think is worthy of further recognition. It potentially has enormous impact on the careers of actors, directors, writers, director of photographies, producers, and a host of other film crew members.
The Academy granted lifelong membership. 94% of the Academy is white, and 77% of it is white males. The lifelong membership favors older white men who apparently are not open minded when it comes to film projects with cast and crew of people of color or LGBT.
During a time period when we have changing national demographics, when we have more non whites in professional roles, politicians, executives, non whites remain extremely underrepresented in the film industry. Similarly at a time when gays can get married, be in the military, have legal protections against discrimination in the form of housing and employment in some states, films with LGBT major characters are often overlooked at the Academy.
Women are also underrepresented in behind the scenes jobs such as executive, producer, director, screenwriter, director of photography, film distribution, among others. This affects the types of films that are made and released and at times the industry has focused only on films that young males prefer, precisely because of this marginalization of women.
Fortunately Jada Pinkett Smith decided to come out and speak out against the underrepresentation of Blacks and other minorities. This was after her husband Will Smith had been snubbed for an Oscar nomination. She said she wouldn't be attending the oscars and it's time for communities of color to realize the power that they have and work on building new institutions. Her statements on this Facebook video blew up and became extremely controversial.
Spike Lee joined her in the protest, despite his being awarded an honorary Oscar. Spike said that he would be attending the Knicks Game. Lee also spoke on how the biggest problems is that there is no diversity among executives in the film industry. He mentioned how the sports industry remedies the lack of diversity among coaches and senior executives by recruiting non whites. He even spoke on this business reasons for the film industry to diversity. By the next generation together Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians will be the majority of the nation. The US will be a plurality and for business purposes the media needs to release products that look like the nation.
After these stinging rebukes the Academy agreed to end lifelong membership and essentially push out members who hadn't worked in the industry in 10 years. The government board and committees will add new members (who will be women and/or people of color). Other reforms are in the works. This is extremely notable because this is the first time the industry has been taken to task for the lack of diversity behind the scenes. And this is the first time it has been so completely acknowledged.