But the three panelists are also quick to point out that the Oscars are an end result of the industry’s problems. By focusing on the lack of black actor nominations, we are limiting our scope and de-emphasizing the root causes of #racism in Hollywood. The Oscars do mean something, and they are a stark depiction of how much the industry still needs to progress, but they aren’t the only thing we should be fighting for. “Yes, there’s a problem,” Martin Chase says, “but Oscar time is not the [only] time to focus on it. There are 364 other days out of the year.”
After a week of discussion, we’ve finally arrived at the Oscars. That’s no mistake—the topic of the Academy Awards, and more specifically the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, is at once the most pressing facet of the conversation on #racism in Hollywood and the least important. Thanks to the hashtag, Jada Pinkett and Will Smith, and a slew of older actors putting their feet in their mouths, the Academy’s ancient makeup and embarrassing underrepresentation of minorities has been an ever-present story in the news cycle. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has already vowed to overhaul the system and make Hollywood’s most prestigious ceremony far more inclusive—but rectifying an institution so mired in racism is not a quick fix. As Oscar Sunday approaches, producer Debra Martin Chase, writer/producer Devon Shepard, and casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd touch on OscarsSoWhite, and what it signifies about Hollywood as a whole.