Obama Weighs In on #OscarsSoWhite: Diversity ‘Makes for Better Art’

The president made it clear where he stands on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

After the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated 20 white actors for the second year in a row, Spike Lee said he would not be attending the show. Next, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith followed his lead. And now, President Obama has weighed in.

“I think that California is an example of the incredible diversity of this country. That’s a strength,” Obama said in an interview with ABC7’s David Ono. “I think that when everybody’s story is told, then that makes for better art, it makes for better entertainment, it makes everybody feel part of one American family.”

“As a whole, the industry should do what every other industry should do, which is to look for talent, and provide opportunity to everybody,” the president added. “I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue of ’Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?’”

Ono also spoke to Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who said, “The president from Day 1 has really fought to ensure that everybody has an equal opportunity to compete and achieve their dreams, and so thinking about how we approach diversity and inclusion in our country is something everyone should do.”

One movie that will feature a more diverse cast than most of this year’s Best Picture nominees is the upcoming Southside with You, which had its premiere at Sundance this past week. The film depicts Obama’s first date with his future wife, Michelle Robinson, during which the pair famously went to see Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing.

Twenty-six years ago, that film received two Oscar nominations, for Lee’s screenplay and for supporting actor Danny Aiello, one of the few white characters in the movie, which is set on a summer day in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The nomination for Aiello echoes the only Oscar nod this year for Creed, which went to Sylvester Stallone, who reprises his role as Rocky Balboa. Michael B. Jordan, the film’s African-American lead, was snubbed.

The Academy’s failure to nominate Do the Right Thing for Best Picture is considered one of the most egregious oversights in its long history. That same year, Driving Miss Daisy took home the top award. Morgan Freeman received a nod for Best Actor but lost to My Left Foot’s Daniel Day-Lewis. Aiello also ended up losing to Denzel Washington, who took home his first of two Oscars, for Glory.