Back in August in my review of Straight Outta Compton, I predicted that the rap biopic was likely to cause a racial controversy for the Academy Awards because, while the movie wasn’t quite good enough to earn much Oscar love, it was competent enough to trigger feelings of entitlement. As last year’s black complaints about Selma being handed only one Oscar suggested, when the Academy gave the Best Picture award a couple of years ago to 12 Years a Slave, it didn’t succeed in assuaging black demands for a few years as hoped. Instead, 12 Years’ Oscar seemed to convince racial spokespersons that blacks deserve to win Best Picture every year.
This ongoing Academy Award ruckus could be instructive.
For example, blacks not winning enough Academy Awards is not an actual problem in a numerical sense. For the last generation, black actors have taken home about as many Oscars as their share of the relevant population, but that doesn’t quell their demand for larger and larger racial quotas.
It’s not as if African-Americans don’t have enough encouragement from pop culture to become celebrities.
That may have been true in the distant past, but it hasn’t been so for a long time. I can recall about 50 years ago watching on television with my mother an uplifting 1963 movie called Lilies of the Field. It starred Sidney Poitier as a black handyman who gets cajoled by sly nuns into building them a chapel. (Hollywood back then loved crafty Catholic sisters, such as those in The Sound of Music and The Trouble With Angels.) The announcer kept coming on to point out that Poitier had won the 1963 Best Actor Oscar for his performance.