There have already been a few pieces about the role Chris Rock played as a host of the Oscars last night. With the controversy of #OscarsSoWhite in the weeks leading up to the Oscars it is not all surprising that Chris Rock, a black man, commented on it. He comically spoke about how this lack of representation has been going on since the Academy Awards originated, but the growing attention to it is because in the past black people were too busy "getting raped and lynched". In answering the question 'is #Hollywood racist?', he responded, "You're damn right Hollywood is racist. But it ain't the racist that you've grown accustomed to." His remarks on the controversy sparked further controversy but I do think the negative commentary was done by people who should have little to say in the matter and don't understand why the Oscars are important.
The Importance of the Oscars
The boycotting of the Oscars by black entertainers and #OscarsSoWhite stemmed from outrage about the lack of representation at the Oscars. Before getting into the racial component, I think it's important to understand why people are having this reaction to the Academy Awards in particular. The Academy Awards are the highest-profile awards in the entertainment industry. People often question the relevance of the Oscars as we are used to films we didn't think were good as an audience member winning these high honors. However, the Academy is still very important to the entertainment industry. The Oscars exist to reward the best in film, or the perceived best in film, for the year. It is still a very prestigious award. This said, many people have a problem when they realized only certain demographics are being nominated for these awards.
This has nothing to do with the caliber of the work people of color create and put out into the world. I cannot honestly believe that only white people have creative caliber worth rewarding. This issue affects all people of color and all members of marginalized groups. This became a problem specifically for black entertainers because for some reason, they were the only ones to stand up against this.
I understand why people are seeing this as a spoiled attempt to get unearned wins during award season. However, this isn't about 'winning'. Black people aren't upset about the lack of wins over their white counterparts. They are outraged because of the lack of recognition for the work they do. They are upset about their work not being seen as having the same level of artistry as that of white people. It's literally about the work of some being viewed as lesser than those of others. Black entertainers were just the only ones to outwardly voice their frustrations over the Oscars for reasons I can't understand because even with no black nominees, no other people of color won at the Oscars last night.
I understand that many feel that the Oscars wasn't the space to try to have the conversation, but what place would be better? The Academy Awards is a show viewed by a massive audience and is dedicated to celebrating film and its merits. Where better to make a nod to one of the entertainment industry's biggest and most continuous flaws?
This isn't about how good of a host Chris Rock was. It's about how he was honest about the extent of racism in the entertainment industry. This wasn't like last year where we had a white, male host making soft jibes at the whiteness of the Oscars but then everyone can give a knowing laugh and move on. This was a black man saying, in his own way, that something is wrong here. I understand why conversations about race are so uncomfortable but if people keep ignoring the people of color who are telling them that there are problems to fix, these conversations will never cease. #Celebrities