It’s hard to keep up with the disrespect of Hollywood, but you may remember the segment at last year’s Academy Awards which featured racist jokes at the expense of Asian children. Disgusting, yet unfortunately not surprising.
Rightfully, this incident caused controversy, prompting 25 Asian members of the Academy, including Ang Lee and George Takei, to sign a letter condemning the racist, discriminatory actions of the Academy. The Academy issued an apology, and then called for an unprecedented meeting with 15 members of the Academy of Asian descent so they could air their concerns.
Documentary maker and Oscar nominee Arthur Dong made the following statement after the meeting:
“After a frank meeting with AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson and president Cheryl Boone Issacs to discuss action steps [in response to the Oscars controversy], a group of us wanted to keep the momentum going. As Academy members, we’ve participated within our various branches as professionals in our respective fields; we’ve never organized under a racially based umbrella before. But having witnessed the tone-deaf jabs at Asians during the Oscars, compounded with the very recent, but century-long practice of whitewashing, yellow-face casting decisions by major film productions, we felt a need to come together over this integral part of our identities. “
80 new members of Asian descent have been added to the organization since the last ceremony, bringing the Academy to an estimated 250 Asian members. In an attempt to be more welcoming, the Academy has added three seats to the ‘diversity board’ that will represent ‘the interests of diversity at all meetings.’ One of these seats has gone to Asian-American director Jennifer Yuh Nelson.
It’s not much, but at least something is happening in an industry and affiliation that have gone unchecked for far too long.