Do Kennedy Center Honors Ignore Minorities?

By Erika Gonzalez
|  Friday, Sep 28, 2012  |  Updated 3:35 PM EDT
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The Kennedy Center Honors program recognizes artists for excellence in their field, but some people feel certain minority groups are being ignored.

The Kennedy Center Honors program recognizes artists for excellence in their field, but some people feel certain minority groups are being ignored.

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In 35 years, the Kennedy Center Honors have been bestowed to 185 recipients including this year’s honorees: Buddy Guy, Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Natalia Makarova and members of Led Zeppelin

But Latinos are being overlooked by the federally funded program, Chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts Felix Sanchez said. Placido Domingo and Chita Rivera are the only Latinos to ever receive the honor.

So, Sanchez called Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser.

"He was defensive,” Sanchez said. “He used profanity and hung up the phone thinking this would go away."

Kaiser would not to agree to an on-camera interview with News4 but directed us to his comments to The Washington Post, where he "regretted using strong language."

"An apology first. It's unacceptable what they did to Felix Sanchez,” President of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Hector Sanchez said. “Second, we need structural changes that secure the inclusion of Latinos in particular."

News4 found that Latinos aren’t the only underrepresented minority group:

  • Caucasian: 141 (76.2 percent)
  • African-American: 37 (20 percent)
  • Other (Multiracial or one that did not fit into the other categories.): 3 (1.6 percent)
  • Latino: 2 (1.1 percent)
  • Asian: 1 (0.5 percent)
  • Native American: 1 (0.5 percent)

When asked if there will be any changes in the honoree selection process going forward to include more Latinos, Kennedy Center spokesman John Dow sent this statement:

"While artistic excellence does not have a quota, I assure you that the concerns raised were heard and will be given serious consideration."

The selection process first begins with a 75-person committee of former honorees and luminaries in the field of performing arts. They send their suggestions to Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser, Chairman David Rubenstein and Co-Producer George Stevens Jr. This group then sends a "tally" to a 14-member committee that makes the final decision.

This year’s awards show is set to air in late December.

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