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Kathy Dimaya, Opinion

Yes, I Am Talking About the Oscars Over Ukraine

It seemed largely appropriate to talk about the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but given the recent nature of the events, it was not appropriate to ponder on unfinished circumstances. Perhaps as more unfolds in the next few days, commentary on the situation will be more fitting.

Onto the Oscars. Like millions of others around the world, I watched the Academy Awards on Sunday night (as I am, admittedly, a film enthusiast). A night of glitz and glamour, it is a far cry from the world of military invasions and political upheaval. For a night, it was chance to forget about real life worries, maybe. But still, I felt a disturbing undertone to the event, which can be summed up in Ellen DeGeneres’s most risqué joke of the evening: “Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists.”

Running along with the theme of equal human rights from last week, racism is still prevalent, in movies as well as society in general. It usually does not come in explicit form, but rather hidden and impossibly untraceable and unverifiable. Look through the history of filmmaking, and there are few movies that simply showcase the talents of people of color. Instead, they are confined to roles in stories about “rising above the white man,” as showcased in 12 Years a Slave, The Help, Remember the Titans, and Amistad. To remedy this, there must be a larger influx of scripts that allow for a more diverse range of characters to exist, but that argument leans more to my film beliefs than my political ones. I understand in certain instances that the casting of a particular race is unavoidable, such as in a biopic. But there is a shadow that casts over the movie industry, one caused by uncertainty whether an actor is chosen, or not chosen, based on their talent or on the color of their skin. No one can ever definitively prove that a Caucasian actress was hired over an Asian, African-American, or Latina actress just because she was white.

Relating this to the realm of current events, issues such as affirmative action and hate crimes exist because no matter how much we have progressed, there is more to learn and farther domains to reach. It exemplifies that universal rights to all is still a foreign concept to many of us. In a way, affirmative action is a noble effort to promote justice and equality. But it propagates the very concept it tries to eliminate: making decisions based on race. And the most controversial downside to affirmative action may be the inadvertent possibility that a higher qualified candidate was not selected because they were not a person of color, basically reverse discrimination. This issue is the quintessential double-edged sword, and the only solution is for equal opportunity to be a universal understanding, but that solution is idealistic at best.

Considering the Civil Rights Movement and the end of Apartheid have only occurred within the last fifty years, should I be content with the amount of progress so far?

No. I am not content. Not until everyone and anyone is allowed to freely be. The argument that we should be content is a weak one. We should do better. We can do better.

-Kathy Dimaya

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