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The Academy just took a huge step toward ending #OscarsSoWhite

LOS ANGELES — For all the grief the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has taken for #OscarsSoWhite — much of it deserved, some incidental to the industry it represents — you can't say they haven't made an effort to make this right. Not after Wednesday, anyway.

AMPAS just announced its incoming class for 2016: 683 active actors, directors, writers and other Hollywood operators. And get this: 41% of those are people of color.

That new infusion moves the needle from 8% people of color in the Academy overall (an abysmal number) to 11% (a somewhat less abysmal number). But that's how you turn an aircraft carrier — one hard-fought degree at a time.

Women fared pretty well this time around, too: 46% of the incoming class is female, compared with the 25% that were members beforehand. The new batch brings the overall total to 27%. Again, not a total instant fix, but a big push in the direction of equality.

There are a number of reasons this is remarkable, starting with the transparency. Since its inception, the Academy has been notoriously cagey about its membership makeup, so much so that the Los Angeles Times has made a cottage industry of divining its secretive ranks. But here's the Academy, naming names, identifying its racial and gender makeup and confronting #OscarsSoWhite head-on.

It's an even more impressive feat of recruiting and inclusion, given that the industry the Academy draws from is one that is, indeed, overwhelmingly white and male. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced rule changes and recruitment efforts in January that were largely viewed as optics management at a time when #OscarsSoWhite was at crisis levels.

But this is AMPAS putting its money where its mouth is. 

It will take years of sustaining this effort to equalize the Academy's membership with modern expectations, but Wednesday's announcement — and the fact that they announced these numbers at all — is a heartening sign that the will is there.

The proof may not be in this year's batch of nominees and winners. But if they keep this up, that change will come a whole lot sooner than anyone expected.

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