Oscars, photo by Ivan Bandura (Creative Commons)

Out of 2,900 Oscars, 31 have been awarded to black actors, photo by Ivan Bandura (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Olivia Onyehara, Actor

This year, I’m not excited about who is going to win an Oscar.

I’ve been watching the films, but it has been difficult to ignore the very big, extremely white herd of elephants in the room. No black nominees for the second year running.

Oscar voters snubbed ‘Beasts of No Nation’, about child soldiers in west Africa. It is brilliantly written and directed, and performed by a hugely talented and almost entirely black cast.

These voters are predominantly white, male and over 50. They represent the entertainment industry’s wealthy elite.

As a young black actor, I wonder if they feel that only ‘black films’ which depict the subjugation of minorities by rich white men are worthy of Oscar nomination?

Non-white actors, producers, and theatre and film makers are under-represented, as are women. Cuts in arts funding, and tuition fees in drama schools and universities, disproportionately affect us. We are never given a full and equal opportunity to represent and be represented.

The entertainment industry is rapidly turning into a private playground for the rich. This means that black and Asian actors are unlikely to be cast as leads.

Instead we are limited to small, supporting and often stereotyped roles. The people funding and casting the projects cast the world they live in – an ever more bleached world, devoid of working class voices.

Out of 2,900 Oscars, 31 have been awarded to black actors.

As well as better casting policy, reversing the cuts is fundamental to creating space for black, female and working class voices to flourish in the arts. And democratic control of broadcasters like the BBC – including representatives of viewers, and entertainment union Equity – would help prevent ‘whitewashing’.