Idris Elba Says “Oscars are not designed for us”

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I saw an interesting article recently in which Idris Elba, one of my favorite actors, went out of his way to give his true feelings about the Oscars.  You know the Oscars, those awards that black people never get unless they yank out a breast or act like they want to kill other black people. 

In an appearance at a university, Elba made this statement: “Halle Berry and I were the only two black actors nominated for this year’s Golden Globes (Idris for Lutherand Halle for Frankie & Alice). The Oscars aren’t designed for us…let’s focus on making more films.”

I couldn’t agree more with Idris on this issue, and I find myself consistently saddened by the fact that African American actors and actresses continuously seek their professional validation from a group of individuals who have clearly proven themselves incapable of evaluating African American talent.  Films like “Malcolm X” are ignored by the Oscars, while Denzel Washington received every accolade in the world for his performance in “Training Day.”  His work in “Training Day” was one of the few times Denzel played a role that was in contrast to the brand he’s built as a righteous, intelligent and respectable African American male.  It was after Denzel’s award that I personally decided that I would never turn on the Oscars ceremony again.  By giving Denzel that trophy, they insulted all of us.

African American actors and actresses should take a note from Elba’s page and simply focus on making good films.  More importantly, we must develop the business acumen to green light our own movies and find our own sources of financing.  The truth is that Hollywood was designed without us having a seat at the table, and you can’t move into someone else’s house expecting to shift around the furniture.  We might protest, yell and scream about not getting Oscars and Emmys and other useless awards, but the truth is that our need for validation from the descendants of our historical oppressors is a debilitating psychological handicap that comes right out of slavery.  I have yet to hear any white actor or actress complain about never receiving an NAACP Image Award, primarily because both black and white Hollywood have agreed that the white awards shows set the standards of excellence and credibility.

As long as we keep trying to play the game by someone else’s rules, we are always going to finish in second place.  It’s time for Black Hollywood to find its way to independence and set its own benchmarks of great performance.  Good job on your comments Idris, I am proud of you.

 

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce Watkins commentary delvered to your email, please click here.

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “Idris Elba Says “Oscars are not designed for us”

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  7. Gloria Lawton

    I couldn’t agree more with what Mr. Watkins said about Black Hollywood finding there own independence and financing there own films.Tyler Perry is doing it and has his own studio too. Elba is right about continuing to make good moives. Lastly, I find the workplace rather its cooporate or not the same way. You can yell and scream but you can’t go arranging things in the oppresser’s house.

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  15. Avery

    No the big insult to black people was when Halle Berry won the award for monster Ball. A black woman sees her black man going to jail, and the policeman who put him in jail has sex with the black mans wife, and the policemans his father is a racist, thats a big insult to black people, and why Halle did it is I do not know. Halle lost creditablity with me after that and after dating black men, the first white guy she dates she has a baby, it says to me I do not want to have a nappy haired baby, and screw all you black men. She is trash.

  16. ozell

    I agree whole heartedly and acting is not the only place we need independent control.

  17. Terri Gittens

    I am in total agreement with my fellow actor. I have recently entered the business and to date have participated in three movies. I was very fortunate to have two principal roles out of the three which qualified me to become a SAG member.

    At first I was ecstatic at the thought of being among such an elite group of actors. However, upon closer inspection (while contemplating paying the initial dues) I see the entire industry in a different light. We are grossly underrepresented, passed over for seemly weaker performances and to add insult to injury we have to be subjected to audiences who are pre programed to only appreciate us in a role which satisfies their sub conscientious idea of who they really think we are. Also, after just viewing the OSCAR’S last night I only saw 7 noteworthy Black actors in the entire audience. Clearly, we are not appreciated for our talents and are shamefully under represented at these gatherings. Additionally, I saw the SAG awards as well and the audience appeared the same. Sadly, industry is lacking the recognition of the outstanding work done by African Americans UNLESS, it fits a stereotype. I would say when are things going to change but they have. We aren’t portraying maids, butlers, shoeshine boys, nannie’s, and the like but must resort to demeaning characters before we can be rewarded for our talents. I may be way out here but just like the Miss Black America pageants we need to acknowledge our own with some form of achievement ceremony for actors.

    February 28, 2011 10:34 PM

  18. Liz Torres

    Halle made Monster’s Ball because she knew that if she let a white man bang her in the ass on screen, she would receive praise from the white media. The scene sickened me and was an affront to all black men and women. But, then again, Halle has never struck me as a particularly good role model since she fled the scene of the car accident she caused, feigning amnesia. It is the same amnesia-like symptoms she exhibits now, as she the baby’s fahter his rights, and takes her rage anti-Black male rage out on poor Gabriel Aubry, just because Eric Benet cheated on her frigid ass. She calls Gabriel Aubry a racist when, in reality, she is the racist. Halle is all about Halle. She acts like Nahla is her begotten daughter, like she had some kind of virgin birth. That same amnesia comes whenever it is time to represent her people in positive ways. At least trash bears the authentic scent of that which was once real, whereas, Ms. Berry simply feigns the fetid funk of a forgotten identity.

  19. Andrea Coleman

    I agree that Black actors should receive more Oscar nominations … but … lets be real … when Black actors do win they act like they just won the lottery … African American actors are not telling truth … they want to win Oscar’s … but what are they doing to get to that goal … White people have souls and they know how to act too … the movie Precious was disgusting … the movie For Colored Girls was redundant … Some of our great movies have not been recognized … boo hoo … lets move on … how about african american actors invest and create their own movies and dont worry about awards … Art is something that people see differently … we are different from other culture’s … movies explain some of that … we have our own awards … Idris Elba is a great actor …. but … he is European … he wants to be recognized by white people … he feels like … i am not black i am an actor … white people see him as a black man … look at his roles … life is unfair … he should write his own role … act in it … and be happy …. Art is different between the culture’s … what cant all the black actors get together with their money and create their own studio … not tyler perry’s …. and create some ART that the whole entire world could appreciate …. when i look at a movie with all white people …. i see ART … ART is ART !!!

  20. Edda Sans

    Halle’s Oscar night smile is so fake, you can really see how the control-freak within outshines the perfect dress, hair and makeup. You see, Ms. Berry, God don’t like ugly but Hollywood loves it phonies…

  21. These words need to be spoken over and over again. When we try and do right wrong will always come against us. Back in the 1600 up until now we are classified as not equal but separate. Read Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall memiors. He made this statement over and over again. “We are separate, but not equal. Do as Mr. Tyler Perry give God first place and let Him open the door for Blacks to have your won ‘Black Award Ceremony’ then you can pool together and pick your own black actress and actors for nomination. Stop depending on the Hollywood Society to pick you for an Oscar’s Awards and form your own board of black actors and actresses. Look and see what is in your hands, and not a society who don’t care as long as the black actors and actresses are making them rich. Take your proceeds from your works and build your own Oscar’s Award Committee. God has the door open walk through like bold soldiers. He gave us what we needed to survived.

  22. bevirli

    Wow you’re taking Halle’s personal choices a little personal eh… Avery

  23. bevirli

    Exactly….

  24. bevirli

    ” the truth is that our need for validation from the descendants of our historical oppressors is a debilitating psychological handicap that comes right out of slavery.

    As long as we keep trying to play the game by someone else’s rules, we are always going to finish in second place. It’s time for Black Hollywood to find its way to independence and set its own benchmarks of great performance. ”

    I couldn’t have worded it better… but not only in Hollywood, in Business, Education, Community, Culture, … etc… Set our Own standards and be recognized on Our Own terms….

    Namaste

  25. ll Fanniel

    All I have to say is Black folks wake up!! The Oscars are not meant for Black Folk never will never have Why are we so dumb and selfish ?Why can’t we trust each other enough to have our own Oscars or what ever we want to call them. Every black that received an Oscar at least Hattie Mc Daniels, Hally Berry and good old Mo Mo nique was a disgrace simply trash and very low down for Black America I am sick of Black Hollywood What happened to actors like Cicely Tyson she was ac lass act all the way to the bank. Thank you Ms. Tyson.

  26. Anja

    Avery,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I had never even heard of Monster’s Ball until she won an Oscar. I decided to check it out and it was the most deplorable, worthless cinematic garbage I have every seen!!

    I have said all along that Halle Berry is the quintessential tragic mulatto. Even though publicly she identifies as “black”, privately, I believe, she’d prefers not to. Early on, she felt she had to because the public identified her as black and black people accepted her with open arms.

    Now that she has made it. I have not seen her in a production with any noteworthy mainstream black actor or actress. Now she is biracial and held as the standard of black beauty (??!!) and white acceptance of that beauty.

    I will NEVER support any of her work in the future because I feel that she is a sell out and like countless others, have used the black community for her own professional and personal benefit.

  27. Here in Detroit , Kid Rock, musician is to receive an award from the NAACP because he did some money things ‘for the city’. He’s white and wears a Dixie flag as a tribute to Southern music or some such. I think it is a travesty.

    Here’s an organization that was started as a way to uplift blacks and to give awards to those who do more than toss about money being bought.

    I don’t watch the NAACP or BET awards because some of the black folk they honor are of serious dubious repute.

    Oh well.

  28. wu fru de lu

    recognition of true talent or intelligence is hard to come by in a world were everything including respect cost money. Meaning youre only as talented as youre abundant with resources. I feel we have to ignore the pecking order of the established because they have simply too much money to ever lose it. THEY SAY WE need college degrees to even dream of being where they are at, then they increase tuition, books ,etc. I say just start writing. THERES no proper way to be intelligent. If you can afford college, great, go, but it doesnt teach anything besides formulas that allow you to adapt easier to the eurocentric states.

  29. donnie

    let the church AND the choir say…AMEN! i felt this way about miss berry from day one. she has NEVER PUBLICLY done anything specifically for the black community. why is she always photographed by herself or with with whitefolks? can’t she find one black female friend? tragic mulatto…couldn’t have said it better myelf. i also refuse to “buy” into her brand. its self hatred at its worst and yes, as a black female I WAS HIGHLY OFFENDED BY THE MONSTERS BALL STORYLINE! BLACK FEMALES ARE MORE THAN SOME WHITE PERSON’S IDEA OF SEXUAL GRATIFICATION OR HANDMAID. i don’t even count it as a win for us as a whole but as a truth as to how some white people continue to view us. get it together black folks, FOR US BY US! that’s the ONLY its gonna get done!

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