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The Contender
Con (against)

The Oscar boycott by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith was shameful and counterproductive.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/10/2016 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 1 month ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 180 times Debate No: 95328
Debate Rounds (5)
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Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are super-rich, super-successful, respected and admired around the world. They have comfortable lives and live in comfortable, safe neighborhoods. All of this is a result of their careers in Hollywood. And Hollywood is a result of Caucasians and Jewish people.

Yet, they are unhappy because they, as African Americans, feel that they are not "sufficiently" represented in the movies. But worse, they decided to boycott the Oscars. This was in fact a boycott of a celebration of the accomplishments of others (whites). The Smiths refused to celebrate the achievements of white actors. This might well have the result of making those others less enthusiastic when it comes time to celebrate the accomplishments of the Smiths and other minorities.


You say that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith should be ashamed because they opposed a celebration - as you purport - of "others (whites)." I argue that, if this was indeed the subject of the Oscars celebration, they had every right to boycott it.

The Oscars webpage's About section reads:

"We recognize and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts and sciences, inspire imagination, and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures."

Nowhere in there does it read "of whites." It does, however, claim to "inspire imagination" and "connect the world." This is hardly possible when the awards ceremony itself chooses to exclude one group from its "celebrations" based solely on race.

Personally, I doubt that the Oscars team consciously and purposefully excluded blacks and their work from its list of nominees this year. I do, however, understand why the Smiths and others have boycotted the Oscars. The industry has come a long way from having white folks smear on blackface for black roles. Great black actors of the past, ranging from Sidney Poitier to Denzel Washington, have gradually paved the way for African-Americans to be recognized for their film accomplishments. It's understandable that modern black actors would fear a regression from this path, given that there were even fewer black nominees at the 2016 Oscars than in each of the past five years, and by a somewhat drastic margin.

So no, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith should not have adopted the mindset: "Whites and Jews have given us what we have. We should just be thankful and let those who've taken care of us have their fun without us this year. I bet it'll be our turn next year, anyways!"

First, what guarantee is there that there will come a future "time to celebrate the accomplishments of the Smiths and other minorities?" Who's to say that anyone BUT minorities are looking out for said minorities? For all we know, the likelihood of a similar exclusion at next year's awards would have been even greater, if not for the outrage and boycott this year.

Second, as I mentioned above, blacks have come a long way - through their own hard work - to achieve what they have in the film industry. They've faced controversy and hatred, but persevered for the sake of the message. They admittedly achieved this partly due to the empathy of white businessmen who felt for their cause, but we are forgetting that the cause shouldn't have even existed in the first place. People should be treated based on the content of their character, not on the color of their skin (as a great man once said).
Debate Round No. 1


I agree with almost everything you said. But almost everything you said misses the point. Perhaps I did not explain the first point clearly. The Oscars of 2016 just HAPPENED to be virtually all-white, and so just HAPPENED to be a celebration of actors who were white. I certainly am not saying that that's the way it SHOULD be.

With that clarification, I say again that if the Smiths would like whites (and others) to celebrate THEIR accomplishments and the accomplishments of blacks in general, then THEY better be in line to celebrate the accomplishments of whites, openly, enthusiastically. There are whites, I am sure, who might have been hurt by the fact that some of the most powerful players in Hollywood boycotted, who were black, stayed away when it came to celebrating the work of whites.

Even worse, the Smiths, intentionally or not, detracted from that celebration, by calling attention to their boycott, and it would not have been completely wrong for those white actors to be insulted. White actors winning awards had nothing to do with the fact that there were no non-white actors nominated, and should not be made to pay any price for this absence.

I'm glad to see that you agree with me that there is no basis for thinking that the Academy intentionally excluded people of color in their nominations. This implies that you assume that they were honest, or not dishonest.

(By the way, I never said that the Smiths should be ashamed of themselves. They were wrong, I believe, but that is not a reason to be ashamed.)

You say that the cause shouldn't have existed in the first place. I'm not sure what you might be trying to say with that. Life is ALL about problems, with a little pleasure thrown in for relief. Whites as much as blacks. There is no absence of obstacles, and if it's not one thing it's another. Causes and problems are what life is all about. The implication that blacks in the movies is an important issue is wrong and dangerous.

But to get back to the actual issue, the Smiths are implying that an absence of blacks in movies is a reason to boycott! It may be desirable for blacks to be in the movies. It may be good. It may be wanted. But it simply does not follow that an absence of blacks in movies or at awards ceremonies is a bad or negative thing.


Okay, so as I understand it, your main argument is this:

1) Black players in the film industry must openly and enthusiastically celebrate the accomplishments of their white counterparts in order to be recognized for their own accomplishments. This is because:
a) The white actors/actresses, etc. played no role in the lack of recognition of blacks.
b) The white actors/actresses, etc. have been and will be there to celebrate their black counterparts.

2) The boycott did the opposite. It actually did harm to the celebration of whites' accomplishments. This is because:
a) The boycott hurt the feelings of a number of white people in the industry.
b) The boycott distracted people from the accomplishments of said white film industry players.


3) The boycott should not have taken place.

Given that these are the points of your argument (please correct me if I'm wrong), I will address each, point-by-point.

Point 1.a. may be true. Of course, we do not know this for a fact. There have been rumors going around that the Academy Awards and their nominations are secretly paid for by the film's or actor's production company, in order to better market the product. Even given that Point 1.a. is true, however, I don't believe that the boycott was directed at these white actors/actresses/etc. I believe that it was directed at the members of Academy who chose the films/people/teams to be nominated for awards. So I consider this point irrelevant.

Point 1.b. is true. Their white counterparts have been and will likely continue to be there to celebrate black accomplishments. Again, however, this misses the point. The boycott is directed at those responsible for the exclusion of blacks from the list of nominees: the voters of the Academy. The same applies to Points 2.a. and 2.b. To argue that Group A (black film workers) should not challenge Group C (Academy voters) on the basis that Group B (white film workers) will be unfairly and unnecessarily harmed by such a scuffle, is much akin to saying that an abused wife should not divorce herself from her abusive husband on the basis that their children will be unfairly and unnecessarily harmed. Sure, perhaps the boy-cotters could have expressed themselves in a gentler way, but I can't think of any.

I will also address what I believe is another point you are trying to make, but haven't made clear in the wording of your posts: that the exclusion of blacks from the list of nominees this year could indeed indicate that the works of blacks just were not as competitive as whites' in the eyes of the Academy. This may very well be the case. But I highly doubt that every single film, actor/actress, etc. nominated this year could be claimed as superior to every single film, actor/actress, etc. by or about blacks this year. I simply cannot believe that not a single one could stand toe-to-toe with any of those nominated this year.

Also, your post's header is "The Oscar boycott by Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith was shameful and counterproductive." The Merriam-Webster definition of the word "shameful" is "bad enough to make someone ashamed." So if your description of the boycott as shameful was not meant to ascribe shame to the Smiths, then who exactly are you claiming should be ashamed?
Debate Round No. 2


1.a is not relevant to any argument I am making. It is to be assumed that white actors played no role in the lack of recognition of nonwhites, but even if they did, it should have no effect on how blacks proceed. There are obstacles everywhere, in every endeavor, and the people who overcome are NOT those who complain about the existence of those obstacles. It makes no sense to ask for or demand recognition, or try to force others to give recognition. One does one's best, and hopes that others like what he does. Sometimes he succeeds and usually he does not. I DO hold that if blacks want to participate in what is an invention of whites, controlled and owned by whites, then the job of blacks is to make themselves attractive and desirable to whites, and make whites WANT to recognize and reward them. Just like everyone else has to do. To demand recognition is foolish.

Regardless of who the boycott might have been directed at, the result was that innocent people were affected. "Collateral damage?" There is no need for that. Your analogy of the mother who -- you imply -- should leave her abusive husband REGARDLESS of the harm it causes to the children, is not effective. It is not clear at all that an abused mother should leave the husband regardless of the effects on the children. If the children will be harmed by such divorce, who is to say that the mother should not just accept the abuse in order to protect her children? (Although I understand that abuse of a mother will automatically harm the children as well.)

In the same way, blacks should not disregard the feelings of others, just because those feelings might get in the way of what they want. What the abused mother wants, and what blacks want, are not the ONLY things that matter.

There seem to be way too many blacks who insist that they should be able to do whatever they want to do and be whatever they want to be, and that people who don't like it or care for it are racist, bad. There is absolutely no logic in insisting that whites -- or blacks, for that matter -- must be interested in black film, film about blacks. Many people simply have no interest in this subject. Many BLACK people have no interest in films about slavery and racism and "overcoming."

(Although most blacks do not care about this issue. A small minority of blacks, and probably more white liberals, give this issue its energy.)

Regarding your second to last point, you have interpreted me correctly, for the most part. As I have already implied, if blacks want to be successful in a white film world, then they need to make films that appeal to whites (and others) -- not films that they feel SHOULD appeal to whites. If blacks want whites to support black films, finance black films, promote black films, appreciate black films, then blacks must make films that are FOR whites as much as blacks, with universal themes. For ANY actor or filmmaker to win any award is a rare thing. As Eastwood pointed out, the majority of WHITE people in film are NEVER nominated for an award in their entire career!

It's not about what films are "superior," but about what films people like the most -- which is not often the same thing. Even the Academy is composed of people, who have likes and dislikes and biases. If blacks want awards from whites, then they need to make films that cater to whites. There are no objective criteria in art for determining better and worse.

It appears to me that some black movie people are in film NOT from the love of the art, but from a desire to prove something, and therefore typically choose a subject that serves as a crutch, that gives them leverage, and can then do what some of them actually do: use the race card when things don't go as they like. Certain black movie people do not seem to be grateful for the opportunity they have to make film, do not seem to feel that they have been rewarded by having a career that allows them to satisfy their love. To be doing and having what Will Smith has, and STILL be critical of the industry he is in, and imply that it is racist, is stupid.

Everyone should be ashamed of his actions in this regard, and of anyone who thinks in this way. It might not EVER be black peoples' "turn." It is not about turns. It is about talent and luck and drive. When will it be a white man's "turn" to win the 400-meter dash? If black people feel that the game is rigged against them, why would they want to participate?

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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
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Debate Round No. 5
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