Opportunity. That’s all we’re asking for said Chris Rock to a sea of white faces during this year’s Oscars. I could summarize Rock’s opening monologue at the beginning of the show, but I’ll let Rock speak for himself.
When Black Twitter realized #OscarsSoWhite was going to be a reoccurring theme at the 88th Academy Awards, they, along with Will and Jada Smith called for Rock to step down as host. After watching his monologue, I’m glad Rock did not succumb to the pressures of Black Twitter fingers. I applaud Rock for using his opportunity to host as a platform to make a statement, to extend his reach beyond the choir, because let’s face it, how many times are black people given the opportunity to hover a magnifying glass over white privilege in front of 34.4M viewers?
The only part of Rock’s speech that I could have done without was Stacey Dash’s appointment to “director of the Minority Outreach Program.” Dash’s guest appearance at the Oscars came not too long after receiving backlash from the black community for a Fox News interview where she claimed there was no need for Black History Month or BET.
But this year’s #OscarsSoWhite awards show proved why both Black History Month and BET is so important. If academia, the general public and media are not going to acknowledge the achievements of black people, then we will. And we did ??.
With our awards shows “so white,” you’d think we’d refrain from tainting our own bio pics with passive aggressive endorsements of European standards of beauty. Take for example Zoe Saldana being casted as civil rights activists and jazz singer, Nina Simone.
When I saw black faced Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone on a movie poster, I dropped my head in disappointment and proceeded to smh.
Colorism in the black community has long been an issue. Fair-skinned black folk have a history of being more palatable for European tastes than our dark-skinned brothers and sisters. You add the lack of diversity in Hollywood to the equation and dark-skinned actors and actresses are at a double disadvantage, facing exclusion from both white and black directors.
“My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark,”
– Lisa Simone Kelly (New York Times, 2012).
After reading this quote from Nina Simone’s daughter, the act of casting a light-skinned actress and throwing dark makeup and a prostatic nose on her face seems like slapping Nina Simone’s legacy, well… in the face.
And so I end my first blog post of the year (yes, I know we are three months in) with a simple call to action: as long as the Oscars stays white, Stacey stays clueless, and Saldana stays Nina Simone, make sure you stay woke in 2016 like baby hair and afros and negro noses with Jackson Five nostrils.