Tea Time with Tagwa: Minority groups are not your quota

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, how would you feel if someone decided to reduce your race, gender, sexuality or identity to a mere quota? If they simply classified you as a point system, rather than as a unique being?

I can tell you how I’d feel: disgusted. Even the idea to minimize me strikes anger and distaste. 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has done just that, and instead of realizing the magnitude of the offense, it’s expecting praise.

Late last year, the academy set out new guidelines and regulations for its Best Picture nominations starting in 2024. The Academy Award for Best Picture — which is one of the greatest honors in Hollywood and the international film world — gained new representation and inclusion standards.

In order to receive a Best Picture nomination, films must meet two of the four new criteria points laid out by the academy. 

  1. On-screen representation, themes and narratives

  2. Creative leadership and project team

  3. Industry access and opportunities

  4. Audience development

This basically means films must include some form of minority representation somewhere on-screen, off-screen, in apprenticeship and/or in marketing and distribution.

The academy desires to have films and creators reflect the general population of audience that is coming to be in our country and around the world in race, gender, sexual orientation and everything else. As our country progresses as a minority-majority population, the academy would like to leave its #OscarsSoWhite stereotype behind.

For the intention, I can applaud the academy. Films do not only tell the stories on-screen. In fact, it’s the people behind the cameras, lights and distribution who tell as much of a story as the actors we see. 

Diversity in race, gender, sexuality and ability must exist everywhere we look. Nothing should be able to operate without the inclusion of a variety of people, especially films. 

We watch movies to escape the realities of our lives. Some films can provide insight into experiences we’ve never imagined. 

Films teach us what we never knew we needed to know. They tell us untold stories and uncover emotions deep in our hearts. They are not strictly white. They are Black. They are LGBTQ. They are Asian. They are impaired. They are everything we see in the world and more.

Reducing them to a quota is unacceptable. That is not the way to promote diversity and inclusion. In fact, it does the opposite. These quotas divide Americans into subcategories that must fight against one another to fill a spot. 

We saw that clearly in the implementation of affirmative action quotas. Universities and workplaces began accepting and hiring people of color in an effort to showcase their competence of the moving age. However, once those implemented numbers were met, the inclusion stopped. 

White students began blaming these quotas for their rejections from opportunities. It turned the accomplishments of people of color into nothing; all that mattered was their color.

That is precisely what the academy will do by implementing these new rules. Films that don’t receive nominations will blame these new rules for that. Films that are nominated will be praised for meeting them, rather than the brilliance they portray.

Minority work should be praised for its brilliance, for its ability to invoke emotion and feeling. Instead of adding minimum minority requirements films must include, the academy could introduce diversity implementation training for all hopeful nominees. Let’s not force the inclusion of minorities for simple nominations, but start making their participation a regularity in Hollywood.

The academy and I quite honestly never see eye to eye. I believe they don’t do enough. They do the bare minimum and expect a round of applause. That became quite clear when the academy’s treasurer and Paramount Pictures CEO Jim Gianopulos was asked about these new rules by the Los Angeles Times.

Is it perfect?” Gianopulos said. “No. Is it progress? Absolutely. So that’s got to be good enough for now.”

Thanks, Jim. The reduction of identities to mere rules and statistics that must be met really suffices the equality and representation minorities deserve. A round of applause and standing ovation for you.

The academy simply cares about its perception, rather than doing what is right, and this comment highlights that reality. Representation should be implemented because everything must reflect our diverse country, not because Twitter is mean to you.

It is time to realize that minority groups do not deserve — and will no longer accept — “good enough.” We want every piece of privilege a straight, white, able-bodied man has. Anything less is not good enough for us. And that’s the tea.

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