Mark Reina, an openly gay Latino member of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science, weighed in the ongoing controversy plaguing the Academy over its lack of diversity in the Oscar nominees.
In an open letter to the Academy's president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, that was published by the Hollywood Reporter, Reina blasted the sweeping rule changes implemented by the Academy in an effort to increase diversity within the organization and the Oscars.
“I understand your need to respond to the criticism the Academy has recently received about the lack of diversity among the Oscar nominees. However, I am baffled at your and the board’s choice of a response,” he began his letter.
Reina, who spent most of his 20-year career as an executeve at Warner Bros., wrote, "I am currently a full voting member of the Academy. Under the new rules it appears as though that right will be denied me in order to make the Academy, and therefore the Oscar nominees, ‘more diverse.’”
He went on, “Are you saying I am racist or have racist tendencies and need to be excluded from voting? Are you saying if I worked another 10 years I would vote differently? Are you saying that I have not made my voting choices on quality but rather on the color of the artists’ skin? Are you saying that I have voted (consciously or unconsciously) to exclude women, members of the LGBT community and other minorities?”
He concluded the letter, “I am a gay man and my father is a Latino immigrant. Please explain to me how denying me my right to vote makes the Academy membership and the Oscar nominees more diverse?”
Reina’s letter was published as a column in the Hollywood Reporter as part of an ongoing series showcasing the response from various Academy members to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the actions taken by the Academy in response.
Reina noted in the column that Isaacs has yet to respond to his letter.
The Panamanian actor and musician Ruben Blades also weighed in on the controversy with an open letter of his own, criticizing actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee for focusing on the lack of black nominees while ignoring other people of color.
“I find it troubling that the current complaints about possible discrimination or oversight resulting in fewer ... non-white nominations for the 2016 Oscars seem to concentrate only on black performers,” Blades posted on his website. “Latino performers are by far the most neglected sector of the U.S. film and television industry.”
Blades, who is not a member of the Academy but is in the Screen Actors Guild, claimed that black actors’ participation in Hollywood has always been bigger in the industry and is “assured to exist,” while Latinos are “still considered foreign goods.”
He continued, “The roles assigned to blacks are usually superior in stature as protagonists than those offered to Latino actors. There are innumerable examples of this. Where is the outrage? Where is the solidarity with discriminated Latinos?”
He acknowledged that while has been fortunate to land significant roles, he also said, "My experience has been that access to better roles is not something we can expect – because of our accent, or looks or just for being Latino,” Blades wrote.