This year's Oscar Nominations have been the subject of controversy because of the lack of diversity. Specifically, all 20 actors nominated are white.
The response to these nominations has had a far-reaching effect. Many actors and actresses have spoken out about the lack of opportunity for actors and actresses of color which caused the current president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, to promise more diversity in the future and to change the Academy's makeup -- which is currently 94% white and 77% male. On top of the Academy's promise for increasing diversity, certain members of the entertainment industry have decided to boycott the Oscars ceremony this year.
In response specifically to Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's decision to boycott the ceremony, Will's former co-star on Fresh Prince of Bel-air, Janet Hubert, spoke out against the boycott. She suggested that Will was not truly upset about the lack of diversity in Hollywood but, was actually just upset he was not nominated for his performance in Concussion. She claimed that the Oscar Nominations should not be valued more than the actor's performance and moreover, nominations "just aint that deep", citing that there are bigger issues than Oscar Nominations like poverty, hunger, and death.
So why should you care who is nominated for an Oscar?
We should worry about these nominations because Hubert is wrong- the Oscars are not superficial. Matt Damon, who has had, albeit, a spotty record when it comes to diversity in Hollywood, countered Hubert's point that the Oscar nominations are not deep by relating these nominations to greater social injustice in this country. He said in a recent interview that the lack of diverse nominees is indicative of "huge systemic injustices around race and gender that are a lot bigger than the Oscars ... they're massive issues in our industry and in our country". These actors experience this "systematic injustice" in the entertainment industry because people of color are not selected to take part in these awards before the selection process even begins. The systematic oppression begins with the disproportionate rate of people of color written or cast into films compared to their white counterparts. If people of color are written or cast into a movie, they are often cast or written in small and/or stereotypical roles which do not often garner Oscar Nominations.
I do not believe that anyone would be so quick to dismiss these issues if they occurred in another industry besides the entertainment or if they were outside of the competitive context of award nominations. These nominations are not the result of a fair competition and are rather symptomatic of greater injustices. Ultimately, diversity is important in every industry because equal opportunity is important everywhere.