The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced its nominees for the 2015 Oscars, and the slate of films, directors, actors, and actresses being honored this year reflects the sort of diversity you'd normally only see during a marathon of History Channel reality shows. While the film Selma, which depicts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s struggle for voting rights, was nominated for Best Picture, there was not a single person of color nominated in any of the other major categories, including Selma director Ava DuVernay for Best Director. The films Birdman and Grand Budapest Hotel led the field with nine nominations apiece, while Selma scored only one other nod, for Best Song.
Even that Best Picture nomination is something of a consolation prize, coming as it does after the Academy, in 2009, expanded the category to allow up to 10 nominees, which means the overwhelmingly old white male voters would otherwise likely have nominated the five films that got Best Director nods.
The snub of Selma's cast and director, as well as every other critically-acclaimed black actor or filmmaker this year (Gugu Mbatha-Raw turned in two such performances in 2014) sparked immediate outrage on Twitter, where the hashtag #OscarsSoWhitetook over the social media platform Thursday morning. While White Twitter was wondering how it was that 12 Years A Slave had worn off already, #BlackTwitter was offering razor-sharp critiques of a longstanding issue. While the 2014 Oscars, where 12 Years won Best Picture and Lupita Nyong'o won for Best Supporting Actress, probably seem like a beacon of diversity compared to this year's roster, there were many more deserving films and performances that weren't even nominated last year. As this handy chart shows, the outrage over 2015 is tempered by the knowledge that this is nothing new.
The #OscarsSoWhite tweets ran the gamut, lampooning Hollywood's history of discrimination, film stereotypes, white "post-racial" attitudes on race, and Fox News. Many of them were damn funny, like these personal favorites:
What also struck me is how many of the tweets poked fun at white people themselves, and how those tweets collectively landed. Sure, there was a lot of anger directed at particular racial injustices, but the mockery of actual white people was remarkably gentle, almost affectionate. I mean, this is Twitter, where people will troll a basket of kittens, but the meanest thing said about actual white people is that we either shower too much or not enough, and that we're not as down as we think we are.
By way of contrast, another Twitter user got it in her head that the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag was, itself, racist, wondering, in patented white person logic, what would happen if there were an #OscarsTooBlack hashtag. Here's how she illustrated the point:
That's right, even on Twitter, where anybody is liable to say anything at any given time, white people are fond of pumpkin spice lattés equals black people are criminals. As much as any incisive commentary I could think of, this sums up the state of race relations these days, and the stakes, because while anyone can be ignorant, only white people can truly afford to be.