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Rashad Robinson, the executive director of civil rights group Color of Change, applauds the recent changes made to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ structure and voting regulations in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.
“It’s a long time coming,” Robinson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I think it’s an incredibly important step that fixes some of the structural challenges inside the Academy.”
He says that it’s crucial to focus on this as a “step forward,” rather than the end of the conversation and says Hollywood should look inward rather than exclusively blame Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs for the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominees.
“I think to place all of the problems in Hollywood on Cheryl Boone Isaacs would be a mistake,” says Robinson, adding it is also a mistake “to think all of the problems will be solved with this first step.”
Color of Change is a civil rights group with more than 1 million members. The organization has run multiple campaigns related to Hollywood in the past, including a 2013 call for more black female castmembers on Saturday Night Live and a 2013 petition to cancel Cops.
This year the group is working on providing story consulting for writers, showrunners and producers with research and recommendations on minority character development as well as facilitating panels and events to increase conversation on relevant issues.
Robinson says that he hopes Hollywood looks at its diversity problems from a “360 degree perspective,” referencing the lack of diversity in critics determining the movies that get Oscar buzz as well as discrimination in casting for films. He says that not only is award recognition important to allow for increased financial and creative opportunities for artists, but that a diverse Hollywood gives minorities the power to shape how they are perceived in society through realistic and positive depictions of their communities.
“What I really appreciated seeing is a recognition that there has to be a turnover as the world and Hollywood become more diverse,” says Robinson of the Academy’s diversity plan. He elaborated by saying that in particular he liked that the new changes include a limited voting status for members for 10 years, subject to renewal depending on the member’s involvement in motion pictures during the past decade.
One thing that the exec would like to see going forward is a “deeper accountability” of people seeing the movies they are voting on. “That is going to be important in disrupting the kind of cycle of people voting for what they are comfortable with,” says Robinson. He also says he was disappointed, but not surprised, at the backlash from people who are against the Academy’s diversity plan: “We see, in particular, many older white celebrities that are incredibly [invested] in the status quo. We have a lot of work to do in this country.
“It will be important for Hollywood, if it wants to continue to stay relevant in a world where TV has become more diverse, Internet streaming has become diverse, they are going to have to recognize the changes that are taking place and embrace them,” he adds.
Lastly, Robinson says he expects Chris Rock to tackle these issues as this year’s host of the Academy Awards.
“I think that Chris Rock has proven himself over the years to be an important cultural critic, and hilarious at the same time,” says Robinson. “We absolutely expect him to use this platform to talk about what’s going on, and we look forward to it.”
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