Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, claims the move to strip away the voting rights of the oldest members of the Academy is not discriminatory.
Boone Isaacs told The Hollywood Reporter:
“I just don’t understand it. That’s been a frustrating thing for me, this concept of, ‘We’re moving people out in order to move people in.’ That’s just not true … Our oldest new member is 90 or 91, so it’s not about age at all.”
In the civil rights context, Boone Isaacs comment is laughable. Inviting one individual who is 90 or 91 to join the Academy signifies nothing. And it is unlikely that Boone Isaacs would accept this lame explanation from another group that was charged with unfairly targeting women or minorities.
In any case, if what Boone Isaacs is saying is true, the Academy can easily resolve this matter. The Academy can disclose the number of members who are being stripped of their voting rights, along with their ages. This request is not unreasonable. It is a matter of simple transparency. And I can assure her that this information will be disclosed if the Academy is actually sued for age discrimination.
Although Boone Isaacs professes confusion, age discrimination is not really hard to understand. It occurs when an institution adopts a policy or rule that disproportionately and adversely affects individuals who are over the age of 40.
The Academy earlier announced that 683 new members were invited into the Academy this year, of whom 46% are female and 41% are people of color. The Academy might actually have gotten kudos for this if it had stopped there. There is an obvious need for greater diversity in the Academy. A 2014 survey by the Los Angeles Times of the 6,028 Academy Award voters found that the population is 76 percent men with an average age of 63. But, stupidly, the Academy did not stop there.
Age discrimination is not the solution to lack of racial or gender diversity. lt pits groups that historically have suffered from irrational bias against each other. It is contrary to America’s founding principle of equal justice for all. It damages people, fostering deep resentment and anger, just like race and sex discrimination.
According to Boone Isaacs, it is the Academy’s goal to “increase our inclusion by 50 percent” by 2020. “Gender and race. It’s a big goal — that is for sure. But if you don’t set a big goal, what is the point?” she said.
The point, Ms. Boone Isaacs, is not achieving diversity by any means but achieving diversity in a positive manner without damaging the lives of loyal members, some near the end of their lives, and fracturing the organization itself.