The Oscars were on last Sunday and Chris Rock put on a clinic of how to show grace under fire. Despite calls for a boycott and suggestions that he should step down as host, Rock delivered an edgy, mostly funny opening monologue. Not everything landed (who’s fault was that Stacey Dash bit?), but a lot of it was fly-yes, that pun was very intentional- (‘Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties – I wasn’t invited’; black folks ‘were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer’; the clip featuring Whoopi Goldberg, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan inserting themselves into nominated films – great sfx btw!) . At one point, he soften a bit, simply saying that all black actors want is opportunity. It was in that moment, I realized something…that’s not going to happen.
There is something uncomfortable in 2016 about any group of capable, creative people asking peers for a chance. People are designed to protect their own self interests; it’s all about survival, so in an industry where it’s incredibly hard to succeed (white or not), we’re asking those who work the most to give up a piece of the pie? Why would they? They know how lucky they are to work AND they know how quickly it goes (especially if you’re a woman of a certain age), so what motivation do they have to diversify (i.e, increase an already crowded playing field)? And please don’t say fairness because nobody cares about equity when it comes to money unless you’re talking about ownership. And please don’t say justice because Hollywood is not the government or law enforcement (and you can see how well those institutions have done by people of color).
We’re asking for people to change what they do and not what they think and that’s a waste of time. Ok, so you throw a couple of nominations out to black folks. Is that the answer? A bigger problem becomes watered down to something superficial and ultimately, can’t be taken seriously. It’s not about how many black actors get nominated. That’s a worthless discussion if we’re not talking about minority writers, directors, crew, producers or the fact that Asians and Latinos have it worse. We’re asking white people to give us a place at a table where nine times out a ten, we don’t like the food they serve!
Enough with that. While I didn’t agree with Jada Pinkett regarding an Oscars boycott, I do agree with her statement via her Facebook page that ‘we must stand in our power’. It’s not self imposed segregation to create films and shows with our own money; It’s called community: a collection of like minded individuals working toward one goal. So, while the solution isn’t knocking on doors, it’s not kicking them down either. It’s going back to your house, inviting some friends over and getting the job done.