Tensions are coming to a head over the approaching Oscars following a lack of diversity among this year's nominees

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated January 20, 2016 01:00 PM
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Tensions are coming to a head over the approaching Oscars, as many stars continue to voice their opinions on the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations while Academy members rush to defend the storied ceremony.

Backlash against the Academy has been strong in the week following the announcement of the 2016 Oscar nominations, as many stars have publicly scoffed at the complete snub of non-white actors. While some big names have decided to skip the ceremony altogether – and are calling for host Chris Rock to do the same – others point to a larger diversity issue in Hollywood.

Following Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ statement, in which she promised that the group is “taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership,” the organization’s CEO declared the awards “almost at a point of crisis.”

In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Dawn Hudson said that “there’s not one part of the industry that doesn’t need to be addressed, and it’s been this way for 25 years.”

Pointing out that the diversity problem is at once “cultural” and “institutional,” Hudson wrote that the Academy has hired “between 45 and 50 percent people of color” over the past four years.

“Our staff also has worked very closely with the executive committees in all the Academy branches to identify talented artists of color to make sure they’re being considered for membership,” she explained. “That has resulted in every class in the last four years being more diverse than the previous classes.”

She explained that the change won’t be seen “overnight” and that “a lot of artists of color” have “put out really good work in more films than in other years.”

Some Academy members, however, dismiss claims of racism and said the nominations are merely a reflection of deserving performances.

“I voted for a number of black performers, and I was sorry they weren’t nominated,” Penelope Ann Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. “But to imply that this is because all of us are racists is extremely offensive. I don’t want to be lumped into a category of being a racist because I’m certainly not and because I support and benefit from the talent of black people in this business. It was just an incredibly competitive year.”

Jeremy Larner, a voting member of the Academy’s writers branch, said all blame can’t be placed on the Academy.

“Talk to the studios about changing that, not the Academy,” Larner told the paper. “There’s only so much we can do.”

Meanwhile, celebrities have been more than outspoken about the controversy. 2014 Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong’o said she is “disappointed by the lack of inclusion” among the nominees, while George Clooney contended that the Academy is “moving in the wrong direction.”

Even BET founder Rober L. Johnson issued recommendations for the Academy in an interview with The Wrap, but added, “They don’t make movies. They only judge what the studios deliver.”

And Quincy Jones, a seven-time Oscar nominee and the first black Academy board member, said he was asked to present at this year’s award ceremony but would only do so if he could speak about the controversy. “I’m going to ask [them] to let me speak for five minutes on the lack of diversity. If not, I’m not going to [present].”

“There are two ways to do it,” he added. “You can boycott or you can fix it.”

Others used social media to issue their opinions, like Fuller House star John Stamos, who wrote on Twitter, “Hollywood, this isn’t just about diversity, it’s about talent and you missed out on giving a thumbs up to both today.”

Some stars feel strongly that Rock should step down from his position as host to make a statement. Tyrese Gibson told PEOPLE on Wednesday that “there is no joke that [Chris Rock] can crack, there is no way for him to seize the moment… the statement that you make is that you step down.”

Gibson shared a similar sentiment on Instagram Tuesday, writing to Rock that “we’re were relying on you to DO the right thing,” and, in a longer video, that the Academy has shown “blatant racism.”

50 Cent also used the photo-sharing site to ask Rock to “please do not do the oscars awards,” while Arsenio Hall and others begged the comedian to do exactly the opposite.

The show must go on, but several stars have already vowed to skip out on Feb. 28. Spike Lee said he’ll instead root on the New York Knicks in N.Y.C. Jada Pinkett Smith, whose husband Will Smith was one of the stars overlooked in the Best Actor category, for Concussion, also floated the idea of staying home on Oscar night.