Blacks in Hollywood: Shut Out or Missing in Action?

by Tamika Thompson

After Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won Oscars in 2002 for Training Day and Monster’s Ball respectively, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seemed to have opened its Academy Awards to Black artists. Each year since Washington and Berry received the coveted statuette, Black artists have been nominated or have won in major categories. Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Hudson, Lee Daniels and Mo’Nique are several examples of recent Black recipients of the Oscar.

Whitaker: "We're not at a destination point..."

So in early 2011, when the Academy announced the nominees for its 83rd annual awards, there was an outcry when there were no Black artists on the list.

A piece in The New York Times entitled “Hollywood’s Whiteout” stated, “The consolidation of a black presence in the movies and television did not signal the arrival of a postracial Hollywood any more than the election of Barack Obama in 2008 spelled the end of America’s 400-year-old racial drama.”

Recent guests on the show have commented on this issue as well, raising a debate about whether Blacks are shut out of the film and television business or are not doing enough to make headway in the industry.

Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker, who won in 2007 for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, tells Tavis that Blacks in the movie business have “moved a long way, but we’re not at a destination point.”

And the numbers back up Whitaker’s argument. “In the early 2000s,” states a piece in The Hollywood Reporter, “blacks played 15% of roles in film and TV. Today, it has fallen to 13% … and black directors make up only 4% of the DGA.”

Mackie: Blacks are "lazy" on their game

Actor Anthony Mackie, of The Hurt Locker and Million Dollar Baby fame, says that the lack of exposure for Blacks in Hollywood is a result of Blacks being “lazy” and not telling their own stories.

What do you think? Are Blacks represented well and often enough in film and television? If not, what changes need to take place for that to happen?

Check out the conversations with Whitaker and Mackie, as well as with Blair Underwood, who says that television has become much more “fractured” as Blacks are “relegated to certain networks.”

And be sure to share your thoughts below.


Last modified: March 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm