Why are The NAACP Image Awards Still So Behind the Times?

The NAACP announced their award nominees this week. As an entity in its 5th decade, and as an off shoot of one of the most prominent and oldest Civil Rights organizations in the world, you'd think that they would demonstrate an acute grasp of what the artistic landscape for folks of Color is. However, as they illustrate with their list this year, that remains to not be so.

Moves like nominating Justin Timberlake, but not  Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network, and giving every slot but one in the Supporting Actress category to For Colored Girls, makes it nakedly apparent how little the NAACP is committed to:

  1. Using artistic merit as a guiding principle.
  2. Using the awards to highlight the work of creators not already established.
  3. Using the awards as a catalysis for creators' careers and projects.
  4. Using the awards to give an accurate picture of what the previous year has truly looked like for artists of all Colors.
  5. To offering a model of representation that others can emulate.

It's disappointing, that for a group that has fought to increase minority representation in the media, the Image Awards have increasingly felt just as exclusionary as the mainstream award groups have been. And considering who's on the list, I'd say in some categories its at times even more elitist.

I think the real problem is that the NAACP is not an artistic institution. Beyond issues of representation and equity employment, it's not a think tank for creative expression. The NAACP either needs to spin the Image Awards off into a group that will really tackle these issues for artists of color, and I mean ALL COLORS, year round, or they need to kill it completely.

Taking on ad companies and releasing media diversity reports are outdated tactics that may align with the NAACPs broader mission, they just don't address what it means to be a creative artist.

From Digital Rights issues to improving access to a Cultural Education for Children, the NAACP could be making a real impact. Not a play play one. They could be creating more programs that just don't train writers, but develop producers and executives that can become the next Shonda Rhimes or Paris Barclay. They could be creating discussions that are not just about critiquing, but using that critique as a way to educate the next generation of creators.

When it comes down to it, the truth is, the NAACP may not be the right organization for the job. Yet, who else is better poised to tackle these issues on a national scale than the NAACP?