The Baseball Hall of Fame is, like a 1960s bus, divided in half. There is one committee for determining who gets inducted from prior to integration, and another committee for selecting inductees from post-integrated Major League Baseball.
This is justified because we have no idea how well white baseball players would have done and which teams would have won had black ball players not been banned from major league play. The Negro League had a number of stars that would have changed the entire competitive layout and style of play in MLB. For all we know, a team with Satchel Paige pitching would have destroyed the Yankees batting line-up of Mantle, DiMaggio and Gehrig.
And now that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has failed to nominate any actors of color for two years in a row, we should consider putting an asterisk next to last year’s and this year’s winners.
Consider last year.
Despite the nomination of Selma for Best Picture, not a single actor from it was nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress. It moved audiences and brought an important part of history to life … just without great acting. None of the actors were good enough to compete with, say, Steve Carrel, Felicity Jones, Ethan Hawke or Meryl Streep in her hamiest performance to date. Not David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr., not Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King and not even Oprah as The Egomaniac Who Paid for this Movie and, Therefore, Gets Screen Time.
And that’s not counting the working black actors who didn’t star in Hollywood’s designated black movie to recognize in 2015. They were apparently all so bad that not a single one of them got a nod.
OK, but that was one year. Surely a fluke, right?
This year, not one nominee. No one was nominated from Straight Outta Compton, Chi-Raq, Concussion or Beasts of No Nation. Not one of them were even nominated as a token on the Best Picture list, and the Academy doesn’t even limit that category to five entries. (There were eight in 2015, and eight more this year.)
You know who did get nominated for Best Supporting Actor, though? Sylvester Stallone for playing Rocky, yet again. In Creed, a movie named for the black lead character played by Michael B. Jordan (not nominated).
The last time the Academy nominated no black actors for an Oscar was in 2011. The last time two years in a row? 2000 and 2001. (Most other years in the past decade and a half, the Academy nominated at least one black woman for Best Actress.)
So, I’m setting a new bar for achievement in acting in a motion picture. If a white actor wins an Academy Award without any fellow black nominees, there should be an asterisk by their name in wherever they keep track of these things. (An asterisk on their Hollywood Walk of Fame star?) They didn’t compete against a full field of their peers. They only had to pull white heartstrings and convince mostly white judges that they were “due.”
If it’s good enough for baseball, it’s good enough for the rest of America.
Sorry, Eddie Redmayne, but being British doesn’t exclude you — there’s already a White Oscars, and you probably won a BAFTA.
And if it makes Leonardo DiCaprio feel bad that he finally won, but with an asterisk? On February 28th, he should refuse to accept the honor until the Oscars are reintegrated. It should make him feel better that the last guy to do so was Marlon Brando.