Spike Lee: It’s easier to be a black POTUS than a black studio chief

The Governors Awards were held Saturday night in Hollywood. This has gotten to be a really nice event, held months before the Oscars. The Academy devotes a night of celebration for their lifetime achievement winners, basically. In past years, people like Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Oprah, Harry Belafonte, and this year, the awards recipients were Debbie Reynolds (she won the Jean Horsholt Humanitarian Award), Gena Rowlands and Spike Lee. Spike has never won an individual Oscar for writing, producing or directing, but like so many of the artists who have been consistently snubbed for awards throughout the years, the Academy finally decided to give him a lifetime achievement/career Oscar.

Earlier this year, Spike had some really interesting and reflective words to say about Ava DuVernay’s Oscar snubs, and I wondered if he was mellowing out a little bit. I admire Spike Lee for what he’s achieved, but in public statements over the years, he can seem a bit temperamental (although it’s at times justified). So Spike chose this moment at the Governors Awards to blast the Hollywood establishment and their white-only myopia. Here are some highlights from his speech:

“Everybody in here probably voted for Obama but when I go to offices, I see no black folks except for the brother man at the security who checks my name off the list as I go into the studio…. So we can talk ‘yabba yabba yabba’ but we need to have some serious discussion about diversity and get some flavor up in this. This industry is so behind sports it’s ridiculous. It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than be the head of a studio. Honestly, it’s easier to be president of the United States than the head of a studio or head of network.”

“I don’t know if you noticed but the United States census bureau says by the year 2043, white Americans are going to be the minority in this country. And all you people out there in the position of hiring, you better get smart because you’ll work for us. Reflect what this country looks like.”

[From E! News]

He’s not wrong. In the lead up to his speech, Samuel L. Jackson even pointed out that Spike has put more African-Americans to work in front of and behind the camera, although to offer one small piece of counter-narrative: Spike gets a lot of criticism for how little he does for women of color. During his speech, Spike also gave a shout-out to the current Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and what she’s done to support diversity within the Academy.

Here are some additional photos from the Governors Awards, including Cate Blanchett, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston.

Photos courtesy of Getty.

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13 Responses to “Spike Lee: It’s easier to be a black POTUS than a black studio chief”

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  1. Pinky says:

    And here it is. Mindy Kaling, take note!

  2. Marny says:

    One hundred percent right. Well put!

  3. Boston Green Eyes says:

    I like Spike a lot – he’s one of my favorite film makers and I agree with him 100%.

  4. Junior says:

    Glad that Spike has been reading the Census reports, but his ‘white minority’ nirvana isn’t as clear-cut as he sees it. It refers to non-Hispanic whites only and excludes people of Middle Eastern descent and mixed-race people, including white-Asian and white-Hispanic people as well as white-African diaspora descendants. The greatest population growth is actually expected to be among Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans, who intermarry with white Americans more than any other group – ie lots of mixed race kids. And the percentage of African diaspora Americans (including African-Americans as well as Americans of Carribbean African descent and African immigrants and their descendents) is expected to remain roughly the same at about 12%.

    Spike, make me a good movie! It’s been a long time since “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X.”

  5. Jay says:

    *grabs popcorn and waits*

  6. Breakfast Margaritas says:

    I doubt nirvana would be an accurate word since whites will continue to be the ethnic majority in America. Still it would be nice to see films that reflect something other than all white suburbia, all white workplaces, all white families, all white historical events, all white political thrillers and all white romcoms with the occasional token thrown in there. Other ethnicities plunk down their cash for movie tickets, DVD s and soundtracks. Let’s not be another South Africa in 30 years.

    It’s good to see India’s Bollywood and Nigeria’s Nollywood as well as spike, Tyler Perry, A a Duvernay, and Asian film directors bringing interesting stories to light so we don’t have to suffer through yet another heist, casino, baseball, improbable situation movie. These directors deserve the cash that goes with global distribution and global audiences.

  7. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    *crosses legs, smiles brightly*

    Oh there’s nothing wrong in his words. Plenty of folks voted for Obama but have minority individuals only working the grunt jobs in their place of business – if at all.

    Funny how it just keeps happening, with like, totally no way of explaining it . Weeiirrrd.

  8. Ashley says:

    On a sidenote Cate’s outfit is amazing!

  9. mp says:

    I will admit I can be dumb but is being a black studio head or network head really harder than being a black potus in terms of finding diverse candidates for positions?

  10. BooBooLaRue says:

    Cate and Helen and Rachel in one post! Swoon!

  11. Nappy says:

    Spike Lee is a dried up pile of dog turds.