We Have the Diversity to Change

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The reveal of the 2016 Oscar nominations caused a ripple effect of anger on social media and beyond. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has begun to circulate once again due to the lack of representation of minorities in any major acting category. Celebrities have tweeted left and right about the subject, and some, such as Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Spike Lee, are boycotting the Oscars altogether. The argument that remains on the subject is the issue of diversity in Hollywood is whether it really matters who is nominated for any award.

On one side of the spectrum, some argue that nominations should never be based on how diverse it is collectively, but individually chosen based on performance and merit. Others say that having diversity is key to representing the Hollywood’s cultural landscape and is growing to achieve. Shows like Quantico, American Crime, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, Shades of Blue, Brooklyn Nine Nine and movies such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road have pushed the envelope in terms of diversity, but the question stands on whether this is just a trend or a chance to move forward.

Frank Sinatra School of the Arts being a school focused on maintaining a high standard of the arts, has an important say in the future of creative media, as well as how different types of people feel about representation. Selini Drakos, a senior drama major, explains that diversity is important, but talent shouldn’t be compromised.

“It always should come down to talent, but of course you when you have all white people, does that mean there were no minorities that were talented enough to get nominated,” Selini said.

In terms of the Oscars, the nominations are chosen by subjective merit in theory, but within a drama class at Frank Sinatra, does casting apply in the same way? According to Selini, shows are casted by the theme of the play, and if otherwise, is blindly casted.

“We did a play, Trojan Women set in present day Turkey and they had casted a black female as the lead, because in the end, the race of the actor didn’t matter,” she adds.

From the standpoint of a drama major, who and what people are casted for matters more than their race, but the importance of diversity within the school itself is a different story.

“FSSA feels like, and pretty much is, a white school. New York being such a diverse place already, and seeing different kinds of people everyday, we get each other. Even with that though, it’s still important to represent people so they don’t feel excluded,” Kimberly Najera, a 17 year old art senior said.

[Editors Note: According to recent data compiled by the state of NY for the 2014-2015 school year, FSSA currently has a mixed population of students comprised of 11 percent Asian, 14 percent African-American, 33 percent Hispanic, and 39 percent White].

It seems that for the most part, inclusion is an important element of being accepted within society. As the country becomes more mixed, the media should step up to the plate in representing minorities, who are steadily becoming the majority. As for the Oscars, Kimberly explains that diversity is being ignored in Hollywood itself.

“I feel like out of all the people in the world, it’s hard to believe that all the talented people are white. I think it’s because they have more opportunity, not only because they are talented, but because they are white,” Kimberly said.

These statements can lead us to a conclusion that in a changing world, talent should be stabilized by fair representation. In the arts, the chance to participate is open for everyone, and is ultimately a gateway for equal recognition for talent and hard work. In the end, until a balance occurs between ability and diversity within not only the Oscars, but Hollywood and creative media, the debate will continue. With a school like Frank Sinatra that has an artistic platform, we are able to blaze the trail for a more inclusive future.

– by Lisa Moore ’16

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