In this slightly different version of Nerd Numbers we aim to highlight a few of the important black stories in nerdom as a small way for us here at Nerd It Here First to again iterate our support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
46 Academy Award Winners
From Hattie McDaniel to Matthew Cherry and Karen Toliver only a small portion of Academy Awards have been awarded to Black people. Hattie McDaniel was the first Black Academy Awards winner; she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. The year McDaniel won the awards ceremony was held at a whites-only hotel and the film’s producer David O. Selznick had to make a special request for her to even be allowed to attend and she was not allowed to sit with her fellow castmates. Matthew Cherry and Karen Toliver are the most recent Black Academy Awards winners for their short film Hair Love that debuted last year (follow the link to watch the film now on YouTube).
With over 20 winners each year, there have been well over 2000 Academy Award winners since the Academy Awards were first held in 1929. That less than 3% have gone to Black people is a problem. It is also emblematic of the long history of oppression in the United States, the continued lack of opportunities for Black people in Hollywood, and the lack of Black stories being told in Hollywood. You may not feel like this matters given everything going on, but cinema is a language that shapes how we see the world and Black people are an important part of our world.
About 13% of Video Game Characters
A 2009 study published by the University of Southern California found that African American characters appear in Video Games roughly in proportion to the Black population living in the United States according to the 2000 Census. Unfortunately, the same study points out that these characters are typically either in sports games or reinforcing other stereotypes. The study “The virtual census: representations of gender, race, and age in video games” also examined the representation of women and of other minorities finding even worse results. This is at least partially a result of black voices being largely missing in video game development. [Science Daily]
If you are working on any art projects, Video games, or otherwise, it might be worthwhile to consider characters of color to be included in your work. As a great place to start, and to avoid the stereotyping mentioned above, talk to members of the Black community in an attempt to understand better the Black experience and how to best represent it in your art of choice. Representation matters in all art forms, even video games.
9 Black Films
Our sister site ShiftingExpectations.com had a bonus episode go up last weekend highlighting films off of the usual list. The movies suggested in the episode tell the stories of Black Americans and many of them were made by Black filmmakers. While watching these films will not protect people of color from being victims of racism and police brutality they may help to broaden your worldview and they might even entertain you. After listening to this episode and watching these movies you can donate money to positive organizations and vote people that will protect the rights of all people into office to actually make a difference.