And now, a reminder of just how white the Oscars are. As countries around the world hold Black Lives Matter protests, actor David Oyelowo remembers receiving backlash for his own form of protest back in 2014. In a June 4 interview on ScreenDaily’s Screen Talks live Q&A, he called out Oscars voters who didn’t even give the movie a chance after seeing he and the cast of Selma pay tribute to Eric Garner. “Six years ago, Selma coincided with Eric Garner being murdered,” he said. “That was the last time we were in a place of ‘I Can’t Breathe.’ I remember at the premiere of Selma us wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts in protest. Members of the academy called in to the studio and our producers saying, ‘How dare they do that? Why are they stirring shit?’ and ‘We are not going to vote for that film, because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.’” Selma, in case you too skipped out on the 2014 film, follows the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the time leading to the 1965 voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. You see the irony. “It’s part of why that film didn’t get everything that people think it should’ve got and it birthed #OscarsSoWhite,” Oyelowo continued. “They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world.” In 2015, an anonymous academy member was actually quoted in The Hollywood Reporter expressing a very similar sentiment: “I’ve got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying ‘I can’t breathe’ [at their New York premiere] — I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year or for stirring up shit?” And if that’s not enough to have you hashtagging #OscarsSoWhite, truth-teller Ava Duvernay backed up Oyelowo’s later that night.
The academy responded the next day, keeping their response short. “Ava & David, we hear you,” they quote-tweeted Duvernay a few hours later. “Unacceptable. We’re committed to progress.” Yeah, they’re definitely getting roasted in the replies.