Chris Rock nailed it… and missed

28 Feb

Chris Rock just delivered a great opening monologue at the Oscars. He spoke truth and named the issue at the heart of the Oscars controversy: it’s not that black people didn’t get nominated in any of the acting categories. It’s not even that this is actually not unusual. It’s not that the Academy should just nominate black people “for” diversity. It’s that black people don’t have equal or equitable opportunities to get nominated. You can see his whole performance here.

I do take issue with Rock’s suggestion that black people protesting the Oscars this year is evidence that black people don’t have “real things to protest” right now (like slavery and lynching) as they have in the past. I would argue that the epidemic of black men being shot by the police is inarguably “real” and that we don’t have to choose issues. While the threat of being shot by the police because you’re black is not equivalent to missing out on Oscar nominations because you’re black, these concurrent realities are both rooted in unconscious racial bias, negative racial stereotypes and institutionalized racial privileges and disadvantages that impact people’s quality and length of life.

That said, thanks to Chris for his brilliant, painfully funny monologue with a final note of regret: this is and isn’t just an issue about black people not having fair access to opportunity. It’s about pretty much everyone who isn’t white, heterosexual (yes, still), not just physically able but physically aesthetically pleasing, and cisgender (conforming to the Academy’s traditional categories for “male” and “female” actors) not having equitable opportunities. The longer we fight for specific identity rights at the intentional or unintentional expense of equity for all identities, the longer real, inclusive justice is going to take. Because equity is all or none, not just for some and a couple others.

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