#OscarsSoWhite tries its best by giving us many token black presenters

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#OscarsSoWhite tries its best by giving us many token black presenters

Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

This was a particularly disappointing year for the Oscars when it came to nominating people of colour. And the Academy has been doing it's very best to show that it has taken note of the issue.

How? By parading one person of colour after the next as presenters - from Dev Patel to Priyanka Chopra, Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg and Kerry Washington.

In fact of the 42 presenters, 15 are people of colour - up from just 6 such presenters in 2013.

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"This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host because there are no black nominees," Chris Rock said at the start of his opening monologue.

"People were like, 'Chris, you should boycott. Chris, you should quit.'

"I thought about quitting. I thought about it real hard. But they're not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit. And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart."

Then Rock got a bit more serious.

"This is the 88th Academy Awards. So this whole 'no black nominees' thing has happened at least 71 other times." Rock said black Americans didn't made a fuss about it back then because they had more important things to worry about. "We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer."

Many people of colour were overlooked for their hard work in film his year. Michael B Jordan is one of Hollywood's rising stars, and his film Creed was a critical and box-office hit. I was sure he would be nominated for an Oscar, along with fellow actor Sylvester Stallone and director Ryan Coogler. In the end, only Stallone was nominated.

I feel the same way about the lack of nominations for Straight Outta Compton. Director F Gary Gray deserved to be recognised for bringing this cinematic masterpiece to life. Yes, the screenwriters received a nomination for their work, but it is unacceptable that the only people nominated for that film are white when the majority of the cast and crew is black.

And Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation has been the biggest and most shocking snub so far.

Which is why when you consider the Academy's 87-year history of ignoring black performances - only 15 African Americans have won the honours for acting - the thought of unintentional bias doesn't seem so absurd.

In an LA Times study where more than 5,100 of the 6,000 plus Oscar voting members were analysed, about 94% are white and 75% male. Blacks make up a disappointing 2% of the total voting body, and Latinos less than 2%.

Surely this does not represent the general viewing public.

Variety magazine reported an analysis of all digital content engagement involving Oscar nomination surprises assessing over 600,000 media platforms for Oscar snubs and concluded that Beast of No Nation was the most-discussed film snub, with Idris Elba leading the actor category.

The silver lining

It seems that Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a black woman, has taken notice of the public's backlash. In January, the academy announced a set of changes intended to increase the diversity of its members, including a pledge to make its membership and governing committees more inclusive.

We can only hope that this is a push for progress and a solid start in holding the Academy accountable for its choices when picking nominees.

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Aleesha Matharu

Aleesha Matharu @almatharu