Charles Murray writes
in the WaPo's "5 Myths" format:
5. White Americans are yesterday’s news.
You don’t need to see a young black family in the White House to understand that American demographics are changing. In the 2010 census, non-Latino whites made up 64 percent of the population, down from 69 percent in 2000, 76 percent in 1990 and 80 percent in 1980. In 2011, non-Latino whites for the first time constituted a minority of children under age 2 — the harbinger of a nation in which whites will be a minority. That’s no myth.
Yet, 45 of 50 governors and 96 of 100 U.S. senators were still non-Latino whites in 2010. Whites also were 92 percent of the directors nominated for Academy Awards between 2000 and 2011. They were 96 percent of Fortune 500 chief executives in 2011. The numbers are similar for other influential positions in U.S. society. At least for now, the rhetoric about the fading role of whites in American life outruns reality.
The Best Director Oscar nominees make up one of those lists that are good for counting. Everybody would agree: that's a pretty good job. Directing movies is one of those good jobs where the affirmative action runs out. (In general, there isn't much affirmative action in Hollywood — film crews around L.A., for example, are islands of white unionized blue collar workers in a Latino sea.)
Murray's 92 percent is kind of lowballing the white percentage for the last 60 Best Director nominees (assuming the Coen Brothers count singly). We're talking about a single American-born NAM, Lee Daniels for Precious. Then we've got Taiwan-born Ang Lee with two nominations. So, that's 3 out of 60 or five percent non-white.
After that, it's the usual niggling over who isn't quite white. Everybody else looks pretty white to me: Fernando Meirelles of Brazil (City of God) looks like Ken Burns. Terrence Malick (Tree of Life), who is half-Assyrian Christian, cast Brad Pitt to play his dad. Pedro Almodovar is a Spaniard. My favorite moment in Michel Hazanavicius's cuteThe Artist is when his 1927 hero escapes Bolshevik secret policemen and flies off from the Soviet Union, triumphantly shouting (on a title card) "Long Live Free Georgia!" So, I'd say he's pretty Caucasian. (No, my guess was wrong, he's not Georgian, just Jewish from Lithuania.) Alejandro González Iñárritu of Mexico City (Babel) looks like a Hungarian friend of mine. I would guess Murray is counting González Iñárritu as a Latino, but he's different from, say, Robert Rodriguez.
I come up with 95% white (and 97% male - one female nominee is the daughter of an earlier Best Director Oscar winner and the other was married to a Best Director winner). Whatever the precise percentage is, it's really high, and it's not like Spike Lee got ripped off by not being nominated for She Hate Me or Rodriguez for Machete.
The first nonwhite Best Director nominee was Hiroshi Teshigahara for Woman in the Dunes in 1965.