If you’re like me, you were a little too busy doing literally anything else, to watch the Oscars. It’s not so much that you were boycotting, it’s just that you don’t have cable, and Sunday night is about meal prepping, long calls with friends and family, and having existential crises, or at least that Sunday night I-have-work-tomorrow anxiety.
For the second year in a row, the Oscars lacked racial diversity and were termed #OscarsSoWhite from the time the nominations were made known. Comedian and 88th Academy Awards host, Chris Rock, discussed Hollywood’s race problems in his opening monologue at the event.
“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” These Oscar Wilde words could not be more apt as Rock addressed Hollywood’s racism by referring to it as, sorority racism. He described this form of racism as the kind that comes from the nicest white people, but who fail to see how their networks and systems result in a lack of opportunities for people of color.
Through joking about the historical racism of the Oscars in relation to America’s racism history at large, proposing “black categories,” and pointing out typecasting and stereotyping, Rock made the “white people’s choice awards” – which he humorously called the Oscars – feel a little or a lot uncomfortable. But in so doing, he addressed the elephant in the room in a way that was genuine and probably easier to swallow because of humor, than it would have been otherwise. However, his “real things to protest” line did give me pause in a way that made it seem like diversity in industry is not something worth protesting. Add to that, his jokes about black people getting shot at the cinema. That garnered too much laughter and not enough thought for my taste, especially when the racial make-up of the audience is considered. Ultimately Rock had a fine line to walk, but did he play it too safe?
Watch Rock’s opening monologue below and consider that fundamentally he gets to the heart of the matter of diversity problems not only in the film industry but elsewhere: opportunity.