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The Academy is showing hypocrisy in trying to make an example of Will Smith

OPINION: It’s hard to take the organization that runs the Oscars seriously now that it’s decided to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the actor for breaching its standards of conduct. It’s funny how the Academy hasn’t kept up the same energy for Oscar winners who have done so much worse than a slap in the face.

Editor’s note: The following article is an editorial, and the opinions expressed are those of the author. Read more opinions on the Grio.

Although evil is evil (and two of them are not good), there always seems to be a double standard when Black is caught in the crosshairs.

The “slapgate” incident involving Will Smith and Chris Rock has become a saga unto itself – with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doubling down on escalation.

On Wednesday, the Academy, which oversees the Oscars, officially announced that it had “initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of Academy standards of conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and undermining the integrity of the Academy”. .”

The organization also added that “Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Academy Awards were a deeply shocking and traumatic event to witness in person and on television” and even went so far as to mention “that Mr. Smith was invited to leave the ceremony and refused”.

On Thursday, various sources began pushing back against the Academy’s account, saying the Oscar-winning actor hadn’t been asked to leave. Translation: Someone is lying, and it’s hard to believe the Academy is serious right now.

For the 1,619th time, black people who question how white institutions work as they relate to our community do not condone violence (someone should ask Trump supporters at every rally, convention, and/or insurrection at which the former president could attend). However, it’s hard not to see the Academy’s hypocrisy as it attempts to cast Smith as its great black example of dealing with “deeply shocking and traumatic” events during its ceremony. I, for one, would think going several years in recent history without naming actors and actresses of color would be more disturbing than a bare-handed slap in the face, but I guess no one asked me.

Academy member writer, director and producer Marshall Herskovitz tweeted shortly after Sunday’s incident that Smith should be reprimanded, adding, “He disgraced our entire community tonight.”

Disgraced? The whole community? Interesting.

For years, the Academy has often turned a blind eye to the problematic and threatening conduct of its members. Along with Smith, he “may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the statutes and standards of conduct.” Considering what happened at the Oscars and with members of the Academy (on and off the stage), I didn’t even know they had such strict rules and standards of conduct.

I remember seeing actor Adrien Brody running to accept the Best Actor Oscar at the 2003 Oscars and immediately grabbing and kissing presenter Halle Berry without hesitation. We would later find out that it was unscripted, and that was easily understandable as Brody was super excited to have won. But Berry, the first and only black woman to win Best Actress, was sexually assaulted on national television. The years have passed, but the The Monster Ball The actress noted that she was in shock over what happened at the time.

As of now, on the Academy’s official YouTube channel, this squeaky clip, titled “Favorite Oscar® Moment – Adrien Brody kissing Halle Berry,” has over seven million views.

Brody never faced any consequences for his behavior at the time, just like the director of the film he won the Oscar for, Roman Polanski, didn’t when he won the Oscar either. for Best Director on the same night. Polanski, who became a fugitive when he fled the United States in 1978 after pleading guilty to having sex with an underage girl, received a standing ovation in his absence when his name was called. It wasn’t until 2018 that the Academy finally expelled him and Bill Cosby during the rise of the #MeToo movement. It had only given the boot to Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood heavyweight, the previous year.

But the list goes on of countless artists, past and present, who have suffered no major consequences for violent and problematic behavior. At the 1973 Oscars, acting legend John Wayne reportedly had to be stopped by six security guards from attacking 26-year-old Native American actor Sacheen Littlefeather after he was furious that she criticized Hollywood for its problematic portrayals of Indigenous peoples . Instead of condemning Wayne’s racist and violent behavior, actors like Clint Eastwood mocked his words and hit him with a dose of toxic masculinity by defending the cowboys “turned in all John Ford’s westerns in over the years”.

Perhaps one of the most disgusting manifestations of white privilege at the Oscars can be found in the continued passes given to Oscar-winning actor Mel Gibson by the Academy after his well-documented history of blatant anti-Semitism and racism. In 2017, the controversial director was nominated for Best Director, with many considering him a “comeback” after he hadn’t been nominated since 1995. Brave Heart, which won Best Picture and Best Director, winning two Gibson Awards. Again, he’s never been reprimanded or had his Oscars revoked for such inflammatory behavior – and we won’t even get into how accused sex offender Woody Allen is still being nominated and winning as recently as in 2013.

If the Academy takes away the well-deserved Oscar from Smith, it would be the second time it has done so. It could also remove him from the Academy. Would the punishment fit the crime? According to history, that answer is no. Because for all the men before him who have done far worse to roll back the Oscars, Smith’s actions seem less dangerous when lined up against accused rapists, racists and abusers.

If they asked me, a simple short-term suspension and ban on traditionally presenting at next year’s Oscars would suffice. Anything beyond that seems excessive, over the top and white supremacy rears its ugly head.

Correction, 5:40 p.m. ET, March 31, 2022: Although an Oscar has never been revoked for personal conduct, an award was revoked in 1969 when a documentary was deemed ineligible for the year of its nomination. The story has been updated.

Ernest Owens is editor of Philadelphia magazine and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. The award-winning journalist has written for The New York Times, NBC News, USA Today and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and ernestowens.com.

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