From my latest piece for The Guardian:
Over the years, the Academy could have easily honoured Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, Tanya Hamilton’s Night Catches Us, or even Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X. The Color Purple received 11 nominations, and struck out in every category. Just one win for any of these films would have dulled the sting that comes along with witnessing the Oscars celebrate black dysfunction in the form of Precious. But they’ve consistently failed.
It’s worse when you start factoring in gender. The margin is slim, but black men have fared better with the Academy than black women. Black women have captured attention and wide critical acclaim by fulfilling only the basest of stereotypes. Viola Davis is one of the finest actresses working today. Her performance in The Help is truly remarkable. But what does it mean that in 2012 the best role available to her, according the standards set by the industry, is no different than what would have been available in 1939? What does it mean that Halle Berry became the first black woman to win best actress by embodying the lascivious jezebel? What does it mean when Mo’Nique’s big win comes for portraying what amounts to an angry black welfare queen? These aren’t the outliers. Black women don’t have the luxury of a large number of nominations or wins for there to be any outliers. They aren’t exceptions, rather they are the rule. There has been no progression.
Read the entire article here.