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Yo, L.A. Times: You forgot to mention most academy voters are part of a minority group

by Danielle Berrin

February 21, 2012 | 10:57 am

Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A. Photo by Wikipedia/Minnaert

An L.A. Times survey on the demographics of voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences found that a majority of its 5,765 members are “overwhelmingly” white males. The article reporting the findings of the survey, based on interviews with 5,100 academy members, or 89% of total academy voters (a somewhat dubious claim since the academy roster is kept strictly confidential) was deeply concerned with the academy’s lack of minority representation.

The Times found that some of the academy’s 15 branches are almost exclusively white and male. Caucasians currently make up 90% or more of every academy branch except actors, whose roster is 88% white. The academy’s executive branch is 98% white, as is its writers branch.

Men compose more than 90% of five branches, including cinematography and visual effects. Of the academy’s 43-member board of governors, six are women; public relations executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the sole person of color.

“You would think that in this day and age, there would be a little bit more equality across the board, but that’s not the case,” said Nancy Schreiber, one of a handful of women among the cinematography branch’s 206 voting members. “Being a cinematographer should not be gender-based, and it’s ridiculous that it is.”

Academy leaders including President Tom Sherak and Chief Executive Dawn Hudson said they have been trying to diversify the membership but that change is difficult because the film industry is not very diverse, and slow because the academy has been limiting membership growth for the last decade.

“We absolutely recognize that we need to do a better job,” said writer-director Phil Alden Robinson, a longtime academy governor. But “we start off with one hand tied behind our back…. If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it’s very hard for us to diversify our membership.”

I’m not sure what all the fuss is about since the academy is probably “overwhelmingly” Jewish, which, last I checked, is still considered a minority group. Besides its ignorance, what the survey really reveals is that one of the dangers of being a minority with power is that the miracle of that power can be overlooked and taken for granted. But just because Jews aren’t a minority in Hollywood, they are still one of the smallest ethnic groups in the world.

A few statistics: There are roughly 13.5 million Jews worldwide, which comprise less than 1% of the world’s 7 billion people.

So even though it may not seem politically correct to acknowledge that Hollywood’s Jews are in fact a minority (this does not absolve the academy for its lack of diversity elsewhere, specifically in the female and African American population), it is true nonetheless. Complaining that the academy lacks minority voices is actually false; what it lacks is diversity. But then I ask you, who says the leaders of an industry have to represent the population at large? The academy is hardly as civically-oriented as the halls of political power—and last I checked, hardly any of the Republican presidential candidates are representative of the general populace.

And by the way, a Jewish person has never been elected an American president.

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