The tweet came late for those on the East Coast and, depending on your browser, in a tiny font. But shortly after director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced they would be sitting out the Oscars because of its lack of diversity, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement saying she was “heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.”
Here’s the full statement in text and tweet form:
I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.
As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.
This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ’60s and ’70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.
A statement from Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs pic.twitter.com/Nqhgc7sbqG
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 19, 2016
The statement recalled Isaacs’s response when questioned about the Oscars’ lack of diversity last week.
“This is not to take away the greatness [of the films nominated],” she told Deadline. “This has been a great year in film — it really has across the board. You are never going to know what is going to appear on the sheet of paper until you see it.” She added: “We have got to speed it up.”
Reaction to Isaacs’s statement — which came from the first African American academy president in the waning hours of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as celebrities, including Oscar presenter Chris Rock, celebrated King’s legacy in New York City — was divided.
“I am getting so tired of blacks bullying everyone into feeling guilty whenever they feel like their race has been slighted,” one commenter wrote. Another wrote: “It isn’t ‘bullying.’ It’s pointing out a factual problem.”
One notable reaction came from Janet Hubert. Known for her role as Aunt Viv on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” — the show that helped launch the career of Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith’s husband, who was snubbed this year for his work in “Concussion” — Hubert dressed down the Smiths on YouTube.
“I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living, made their living and made millions and millions of dollars from the very people you’re talking about boycotting just because you didn’t get a nomination, just because you didn’t win,” Hubert said. “That is not the way life works, baby.” She added: “You ain’t Barack and Michelle Obama.”
Last year, after inviting 322 people — “an unusually large and demographically broad group,” as the Los Angeles Times put it — to join the academy, Isaacs announced an initiative called A2020 to promote diversity in Hollywood.
“When it comes to fair and equal representation in our industry, words are are not enough,” she said at the time. “We also have a responsibility to take action, and we have an unique opportunity to do so now.”
Yet, as The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr noted, the academy is about 93 percent white and 74 percent male. Acclaimed director Lee, making liberal use of capital letters, noted that all 20 acting nominees are white.
“We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy,” Lee, who received an honorary Oscar last year, wrote on Instagram. “But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White?”