The Golden Globe Awards, typically known for their boozy, star-studded, “party of the year” vibe, were a no-show on Sunday.
While some version of a celebration was held in a small private ceremony, without NBC as a media partner, nobody saw it. And shunned by the industry they aim to celebrate, there was no red carpet, no live stream from the green room, and no A-list presenters schmoozing between awards and performances.
“This obviously felt different,” one attendee told the Los Angeles Times.
At the center of the controversy is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), a long-derided, 87-member group of international journalists who have been accused of cartel-like practices, ethical lapses, financial self-dealing, and with an utter lack of diversity, of being unserious arbiters of true artistic excellence.
Troubles began in earnest after a February 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation dug deep into the membership and their practices. Among the findings: Many members are elderly and retired, and others have questionable journalism credentials and intentions. And, there were no Black members. It was this homogenous membership who were being held responsible for overlooking Black ensemble contenders including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Judas and the Black Messiah, One Night in Miami, and Da 5 Bloods for best picture nominations in 2021.
Just to be clear, we’re talking four — four! – serious films with serious people attached. Spike Lee. Regina King. George C. Wolfe. Shaka King. Daniel Kaluuya. August Wilson. Chadwick Boseman. Viola Davis. LaKeith Stansfield. Lesley Odom, Jr. Delroy Lindo. This takes some doing.
Fueling the controversy was a 2020 antitrust lawsuit filed by Norwegian entertainment journalist Kjersti Flaa in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging the HFPA had created a “culture of corruption,” and behaved like a cartel that improperly enriched its members.
“Qualified applicants for admission to the HFPA are virtually always rejected because the majority of its 87 members are unwilling to share or dilute the enormous economic benefits they receive as members,” the suit says.
While the suit was later dismissed, the Times investigation found “an embattled organization still struggling to shake its reputation as a group whose awards or nominations can be influenced with expensive junkets and publicity swag,” along with questionable self-payments.
Things moved quickly after the Times story dropped. Last April, an email to the entire group sent by former eight-term HFPA President Phil Berk that called Black Lives Matter a “racist hate movement,” was leaked, causing a temporary diversity consultant to resign in disgust. By October, a newly semi-contrite HFPA added 21 new members with immediate voting rights; six are Black, six are Latinx, five are Asian, four are Middle Eastern/North African, and 10 are women.
And by December, the HFPA had tapped Neil Phillips to be their first-ever diversity chief. Phillips, an Aspen Institute Education Entrepreneurship Fellow and a member of the inaugural Echoing Green/Open Society Foundation Black Male Achievement Fellowship, will be supported by a five-year collaborative partnership with the NAACP.
Phillips made his point clear during a speech taped at the pared-back ceremony.
“The talk of diversity, equity, and inclusion showers upon us. This is a necessary phase of progress. Realizing meaningful and lasting transformation requires committed action and being,” he said, handing the microphone to NAACP Senior Vice President Kyle Bowser.
Bowser was not there for his close-up.
“Imagination is the currency that sustains and propels the entertainment industries. Creative storytellers possess an amazing ability to conceive people, places, and circumstances, to fantastical realms of make-believe,” said Bowser. “But for many of us, the imagination of the dominant culture is the most vulnerable, unhealthy place to reside. Our industry of make-believe serves as the principal apparatus for the articulation of artificial notions of homogeneity and supremacy, carefully calibrated to capture our collective imagination and perpetuate the status quo.”
This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ashley Sylla.
Pose's Michaela Jaé Rodriguez becomes first transgender female actor to win a Golden Globe While it would have been lovely to see the Pose star get her flowers in person, it was a bright spot for a strange evening. "This is for the LGBTQAI, Black, Latina, Asian [communities], the many multi beautiful colors of the rainbow… This is not just for me, this is for y'all. This is the door that opens for y'all,” she posted in a heartfelt live stream. Pose, which tells the story of the underground ballroom culture in NYC in the 1980s and ‘90s, has become a powerful platform for queer and trans-themed storytelling and boasts the biggest transgender cast in television history. Pose has received 20 Emmy nominations and four awards.
Starbucks is here with a slew of inclusion updates I’ll be digging into some of them here—I’m particularly interested in learning what makes for a successful supplier diversity initiative, so do reach out if you have experience with those. But in a statement published today, the coffee giant will be focusing on increasing diversity in its manufacturing ranks, aiming to keep a promise of that by 2025, at least 30% of those in corporate jobs and at least 40% of those in all retail and manufacturing roles would be filled with BIPOC talent. While people of color rose to 48% of the workforce in 2021 from 47% in October 2020, the numbers in manufacturing dipped slightly. Among other pledges, Starbucks plans to increase its spending with minority suppliers by 2030 to $1.5 billion from about $800 million last year. Part of its commitment is a new program with Arizona State University to launch a free, open-source toolkit for BIPOC entrepreneurs.
We like diversity, sort of, say most advanced economies This survey from Pew shows an interesting dichotomy. While people in many mature economies see positive impacts from living in a society with people from different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds, most report that discrimination remains a serious problem in their country. Some 70% of people living in Singapore, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Taiwan find value in diversity. In South Korea, Greece and Japan those numbers are lower, but growing. “Half or more in almost every place surveyed describe discrimination as at least a somewhat serious problem–including around three-quarters or more who have this view in Italy, France, Sweden, the U.S. and Germany,” they find.
What does it mean to be white? One of the enduring problems of talking about race is the default position that white people don’t have one. More specifically, that by being the default idea of good things, like power, beauty, leadership, etc, white people don’t have a way to speak about themselves and their own lived experiences, while also addressing the messy reality of status. Writer and professor Eula Biss grew up in a multi-racial family and has been wrestling with the language around race for a long time. She uses the word “complacent” as an example. “[O]ne of the privileges of being white, is that you can coast through your experience, you can coast through your life without having to think about what your race means to other people, and what your existence in a community means to the people around you.”
Kurt Lewin, the founder of social psychology, was a refugee Psychology Today asks a poignant question: What if the U.S. had not let Kurt Lewin in? Lewin was the only member of his immediate family to escape death in Nazi concentration camps, and went on to, among other things, create an influential theory of psychology called “the interactionist perspective,” a more inclusive alternative to the “nature vs nurture” theory of personality development. The author then goes on to trace Lewin’s influence through a professional genealogy that describes his now wide-reaching impact on the field of human understanding. “One refugee and another and many others set in motion critical influences that made you who you are. The you that you now know would not exist without them,” he says.
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