Does Equal Opportunity Employment apply to the film industry?

The verdict is still not settled. Although this year a Black director (Steve McQueen) won an Oscar as a producer for best picture (12 Years A Slave), was nominated for best director, and Lupita Nyong’o won for best supporting actress, the outcome was as simple as Black and White… literally. Where are the Asian actors, screenwriters, costume designers, make-up artists, and directors? Where are the Latinos? People with disabilities? I know they exist, right? Not to mention that based on the very few Black actors that even do find meaningful performance work, when nominated for an Academy Award it feels like it is a mere symbol of tokenism.

Translated into the real world workplace, can you imagine hiring only white employees? Nowadays, companies that lack employee diversity trail behind in terms of creativity, talent acquisition, and marketing innovation.  Although it temporarily worked for Saturday Night Live, would the excuse, “we cannot find enough talented minority employees” sit well with the EEOC if it were corporate America? As I watched the Oscars, neither the audience members, the films, or the presenters portray the America I know. As a matter of fact, the latest casting data collected by the Screen Actors Guild in 2008 reported that approximately 72% of performers were White. Performers with disabilities were not counted at all. Although the 2012 U.S. census estimates report that Whites make up approximately 78% of the population, approximately only 56% of the share of movie tickets sold in 2012 was purchased by White moviegoers according to data reported by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Fortunately Hollywood is smart enough to leave behind the donning of “blackface”, but we still live in an era where on film a White actor can pop up in the middle of Japan as the last Shogun, or is the savior to an African slave. It is as if a story centering around characters-other-than-White cannot be told on film without a White character involved. Meanwhile, there are countless films where there seems to be not a single minority actor in sight; not even as an extra. I guess in the film industry, white skin constitutes as a bonafide occupational qualification.

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