Student Perspectives

After six weeks of muteness Chris Rock finally came forward with his raw opinion on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Jaws dropped as the 88th Academy Awards host presented his opening monologue. 

The line that stuck with everyone was “You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist, but not the racist that you’ve grown accustomed to. Hollywood is a sorority racist. 

It’s like, ‘We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is,” said Chris Rock.

 Yes, he threw shade at Jada Pickett-Smith who claimed she was boycotting the Oscars. He felt she went to far, but he wanted everyone to grasp that after the second year in a row of no minorities being nominated in the four acting categories Black people deserve chances that Caucasians have.  

"It's not about boycotting. We want opportunities," Rock said. "We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors — that's it. Not just once” he continued. 

When I viewed his spiel I began to wonder if Hollywood is actually racist. The Oscars is an award show that recognizes peoples’ various achievements in the cinema and film industry and is considered an enormous honor. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has held the Academy Awards annually for the last 88 years. It was first broadcasted on the radio in 1930 and was seen on television for the first time in the year 1953.  Looking at Hollywood in the 1800s and early to mid 1900s racism was a huge part of how they earned their money. Blackface was when white actors would put on black grease paint and exaggerate stereotypical features like big lips, a giant nose, huge buttocks, or add monkey like structures to make fun of African- Americans. It was very popular on Broadway, silent movies, racist cartoons, and radio and some TV shows. For someone to say that Hollywood was never racist would be completely ignorant. As of now I believe Hollywood needs to do a better job of voting more minorities into the board of directors so that films with black actors can not be overlooked so that their hard work does not go unnoticed. I would not say that they are racist but more along the lines of discriminatory because there have been nominations and Oscars awarded to African Americans such as Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Hudson, and Denzel Washington. I believe the Academy was trying to start a pattern but with the backlash they might make a few more changes despite the ones they have made for 2017.  

“I would encourage everybody to be more mindful of the movies on which they spend their hard earned money on. If the cast does not look like them, does not represent their stories, perhaps choose not to see their films and instead seek out stories that embody diversity and the beauty and nuances of all people” said April Reign who began the hash tag #OscarsSoWhite.  She also went on to say “I’m disappointed, but not surprised. While I appreciated the fact that academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs attempted to make some changes by inviting over 300 new members into the academy this year, we see that is not enough, that there’s still the erasure of marginalized communities — not just with respect to the academy but also in Hollywood overall. The academy understandably can only do so much, and they do need to do more, but we also need to focus on the heads of the studios who make the decisions with respect to green lighting films so that we see more people of color and more LGBTQ people and more people who are differently abled up on the screen telling their stories as well.” It seemed like the Academy awards were trying to quickly make up for the fact that there were no African Americans nominated by adding a host and a handful of black presenters. 

I believe that they were trying to start a cycle of not recognizing great African-Americans but knew something had to be done by providing a “quick fix” with all of the controversy going around. I hope that African Americans will be able to get recognized for their hard work and tribulation in this industry because even if the Oscars will not recognize them they deserve it. 


Miniya Shabazz is a freshman Mass Communication major from Laurel, Maryland.