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Yellow is the new black

25 Asian members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences have written to the Academy to complain about racism directed towards Asians in last month’s ceremony. Among those siging the letter is two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee, who’s soon to keynote at NAB.

The show featured references to being good at maths and the size of Asian men’s penises.

Following the announcement of acting nominees which, for the second year running, featured no black actors, the Academy hastily convened a knee-jerk reaction designed to shift older, white male Academy members off the voting register as quickly as possible.

Like most knee-jerk reactions, it drew considerable criticism including from some people it was supposed to support, and had unintended consequences – including pushing a lesbian woman off the voting register. As SCREENZ noted at the time, the logic behind the decisions was flawed. If the problem was that white folk were biased or prejudiced and looked after their own when it came to voting, changing the make-up of the Academy would improve that situation only if those new members were equally biased or prejudiced.

Despite all the hand-wringing, contortions and chanting of the word, it’s arguable whether delivering ‘diversity’ was the intention or of the Academy was more concerned with addressing the concerns of black members. Based on the Oscars presentation, it seems prejudice is alive and well, but that’s apparently OK so long if it’s no longer black people in the firing line.

Not so, according to Asian Academy members including four Oscar winners and even three of those governors who voted for the rule changes. The Academy’s Board of Governors meets this week, so we’ll get to see if knee-jerk reactions are the Academy norm now or a more considered response is deemed appropriate.

The text of the letter follows.

“Oscars: Why Make Cheap Jokes at the Expense of Asians?”
“The Oscars anti-Asian racism was alive and well.”
“Asian-American Jab at Oscars reveals deeper diversity woes”
(Associated Press, Salon.com)

Dear Cheryl, Dawn, Members of the Board of Governors, Reginald and David:

We are writing as Academy members of Asian descent to express our complete surprise and disappointment with the targeting of Asians at the 88th Oscars telecast and its perpetuation of racist stereotypes.

In light of criticism over #OscarsSoWhite, we were hopeful that the telecast would provide the Academy a way forward and the chance to present a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity. Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.

We’d like to know how such tasteless and offensive skits could have happened and what process you have in place to preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts.

We look forward to hearing from you about this matter and about the concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect.

We are proud that the Oscars reach several hundred million people around the world of whom 60% are Asians and potential moviegoers.


Don Hall, Sound Branch, John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, Academy Governor, 18 years
Freida Lee Mock, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner, Academy Governor, 6 years
Arthur Dong, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee, Academy Governor, 4 years
Ang Lee, Directors Branch, Two-time Academy Award winner
Chris Tashima, Shorts and Feature Animation Branch, Academy Award winner
Christine Choy, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee
David Magdael, Public Relations Branch
France Nuyen, Actors Branch
George Takei, Actors Branch
Janet Yang, Producers Branch
Jessica Yu, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner
Jodi Long, Actors Branch
Laura Kim, Public Relations Branch
Marcus Hu, Executives Branch
Maysie Hoy, Film Editors Branch
Nancy Kwan, Actors Branch
Peter Kwong, Actors Branch
Renee Tajima-Pena, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee
Rithy Panh, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee
Ruby Yang, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner
Sandra Oh, Actors Branch
Steven Okazaki, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner
Teddy Zee, Executives Branch
William Hoy, Film Editors Branch
Yung Chang, Documentary Branch