'Selma' Star David Oyelowo Slams Oscars for Rewarding Only 'Subservient' Black Roles

David Oyelowo says the Academy doesn't reward blacks as "leaders or kings."

ByABC News
February 2, 2015, 12:19 PM

— -- The subject of race in this year's Academy Awards has been a hot topic after several snubs and lack of diversity among the nominees.

One such actor who could have been nominated for best actor and wasn't was David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma." He spoke Sunday during an appearance at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and said the Academy prefers to reward blacks "more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings or being at the center of our own narrative."

In a video posted by the Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg, Oyelowo, 38, said, "this is truly my feeling, I felt this before the situation [this year] and I feel it now."

He added, "To me, Denzel Washington should have won for playing Malcolm X."

Oyelowo also brought up Sidney Poitier and his win, not for "In the Heat of the Night," but "Lilies of the Field," where he plays a traveling handyman.

"We have to come to the point where there isn't a self-fulfilling prophecy, a notion of who black people are, that feeds into what we are celebrated as ... in life generally," he said. "We have been slaves, we have been domestic servants, we have been criminals ... but we've been leaders, we've been kings. We've been those who've changed the world."

He said those films in which blacks are leaders and game-changers are hard to get made, pointing out the fact the Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated five decades ago.

"There's no film where Dr. King has been the center of his own narrative till now," referring to "Selma."

Oyelowo said he thinks "The Butler" and "12 Years a Slave" and their success at the box office -- making upwards of $200 million each -- made "Selma" possible.

"There is a fear of white guilt, so you have a very nice white person who holds black people's hands throughout their own narrative," he said. "Also, we don't want to see that pain again. So, we don't really go into what that pain was in an authentic way. ... You can't have people curating culture in this way."

He continued, "We need to see these things in order to move forward."

A request for comment from the Academy was not immediately returned to ABC News.