Chris Rock Made One Joke That Changed My View On The Academy Awards Boycott

Were the Oscars on your mind last night?

Initially, it wasn’t on mine. While headed home, I remembered that Rick and Michonne recently became a power couple on The Walking Dead, and I wanted to see how far that relationship will go. I also knew about the Justice for Flint event, which luckily for the Internet, was available via live stream. Since Deadpool was not officially nominated for an Oscar, I had no interest in watching this year’s Academy Awards.

But then, I remembered: Chris Rock is hosting.

Chris Rock opened the 88th Academy Awards with much anticipation. Controversy over the lack of diversity amongst the top award categories led many black actors and actresses to boycott the awards, resulting in Rock re-writing the show’s opening monologue. On Sunday, Rock—who previously hosted the show in 2005—pulled no punches. Many of Rock’s jokes were hilarious, but at times, his themes were so dark that they even made me feel uncomfortable (and I’m black). During the opening monologue, Rock stated that Hollywood is being called out about racism in 2016 and not in the 1950’s and 60’s because Black Americans were “too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won” an Oscar.

Ouch.

Rock’s intention behind the joke seems clear—to highlight the pervasiveness of hate crimes during segregation and relate them to present times. Today, I can say that the thought of being lynched or randomly attacked is not at the forefront of my mind when I wander through ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Unfortunately, some of the societal issues that are shown in movies such as Straight Outta Compton (i.e. gang violence, police brutality), still exist. In January 2016, Chicago, Illinois tallied 51 murders, with 50 percent of the victims identified as known gang members. As for the police, video footage of their acts date back to the Rodney King beating in March 1991.

So why boycott the Oscars when there are other problems to solve?  Well, I realized that ignoring the problems that exist in Hollywood will not immediately end the other issues that plague the United States. Community outreach programs, the passing of new legislation, and voting for the next President are all steps that lead to a better future for this country. By boycotting, many actors and directors believe that some change can be witnessed before next year’s Oscars, creating opportunities for minority performers who otherwise would not have one.

It remains to be seen how much of an influence the boycott had on Hollywood, but last week, it was announced that Michael B. Jordan will star in the remake of heist thriller, The Thomas Crown Affair. The last person to play Thomas Crown was Pierce Bronson (a.k.a. the James Bond of my elementary years).

Just because an issue does not result in the physical harm or death of another, does not mean it is not a problem that can’t be addressed. Now that my view on life is further enlightened, I need to figure out how to join the fight against climate change.

The transcript to Chris Rock’s opening monologue for the Oscars can be found here.

 

Want to see even more cool stuff? Follow me on Twitter @easonwilson

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