By Kia Makarechi, www.HuffingtonPost.com

In bleak situations, incremental improvements can be mistaken for big time progress. So it goes with Hollywood’s consistent inability to include actors of color.

Forest Whitaker, Lee Daniels' ''The Butler'

Forest Whitaker, Lee Daniels’ ”The Butler’

Popular critical consensus suggests that we may have as many as four black Best Actor nominees: Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”), Idris Elba (“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”), Forest Whitaker (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”) and Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”). Ejiofor is currently favored to win the category, where he’ll probably be joined by the likes of Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”), Robert Redford (“All Is Lost”) and Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”).

That these men of color are even being discussed in awards blogger circles is certainly cause for celebration, because each of their films presents a perspective that doesn’t get much play in Hollywood. But insofar as these four movies are important, they are also limited by their veracity. They’re all based on true stories (…)

Put another way, these roles have to be played by black actors. Each of these men has more than earned the nominations they’re expected to receive (now’s a good time to pinch in some salt: awards bloggers love to shower performances with praise, but nominations are certainly not guaranteed), but the fact that they’re generally only rewarded for roles that literally could not have been given to white actors is cause for concern. (…)

Idris Elba, 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom'

Idris Elba, ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’

The situation isn’t much better at the Golden Globes, where Morgan Freeman’s performance as a chauffeur who triumphs over racism in “Driving Miss Daisy” joins the otherwise identical list of Best Actor winners. (Nor, it’s worth noting, does the picture improve when including Best Actor nominees at the Oscars, a class that includes blacks playing “black roles” such as Will Smith in “Ali,” Don Cheadle in “Hotel Rwanda,” Terrence Howard in “Hustle & Flow,” Freeman in “Invictus,” Washington in “Malcom X,” Laurence Fishburne in “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” etc.) (…)

Michael B. Jordan, 'Fruitvale Station'

Michael B. Jordan, ‘Fruitvale Station’

True equality in the Best Actor race doesn’t mean only rewarding black men in roles white men could never play. Instead, we’ll know when Hollywood casting directors and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences view people of color as deserving of equal opportunities to shine when a black man in the role of a fictional caring father, son, teacher, student, doctor, author or otherwise non-racially coded character is nominated for and wins Best Actor. (…)

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