Chris Rock blows the elephant out of the room with #OscarsSoWhite monologue.

Yes, Chris Rock went there.

He took the elephant in the room by the trunk and pulled it center stage for all the world to see at this year's Oscars. And he raised some excellent points.


But really ... was anyone surprised?


In case you missed the memo, the Oscars were inexcusably white this year — for the 88th year.

This was the second year in a row that every single slot for every single acting nomination — all 20 of them — were filled by a white actor or actress. The same exact thing happened in 2015.

Actor Eddie Redmayne, who won best actor in a leading role in 2015, was nominated this year for his role in "The Danish Girl." Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

Clearly, Rock — whose clever, blunt commentary on race helped build his legendary career in comedy — was the perfect guy for the hosting job this year. It seemed like fate.

As Salon's Andrew O'Hehir put it, the 2016 Oscars were "arguably the moment that Rock’s entire career has pointed toward." And he didn't disappoint.

During his opening monologue, Rock wasted no time diving in on the touchy subject in a room filled with (mostly white) famous faces.

Although he said a few things that raised eyebrows for the wrong reasons (like half-heartedly joking that the Oscars' diversity problem isn't a "real [thing] to protest"), he hit the nail on the head getting at the heart of the issue:

“Is Hollywood racist? You know — you got to go at that the right way. Is it burning-cross racist? No. Is it fetchme some lemonade racist? No, no. It’s a different type of racist.”

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Rock told the story of when he was at a fundraiser for Barack Obama filled with Hollywood heavyweights and joked to the president while taking a photo with him that not even the most progressive people in the film industry actually hire people of color.

“I’m like, Mr. President, you see all these writers and producers and actors? They don’t hire black people. And they’re the nicest white people on earth. They’re liberals. Cheese!”

“Is Hollywood racist? You're damn right Hollywood is racist.”

Rock got it right. A lack of diversity at the Oscars is the result of a much larger systemic problem in Hollywood.

Yes, the Academy itself has a diversity problem — the vast majority of its voting members are older, white, and male, which certainly doesn't help in ensuring people of color are recognized. But the problem runs deeper than that.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

Movies that are made by and feature people of color aren't getting produced in Hollywood.

(Or at least not at the rates they should be.)

This is a big factor in why there are far fewer roles for non-white actors, thus fewer opportunities to be nominated for an Oscar.

Why is this the case? Well, for starters, studios are hesitant to take bets on movies they deem financially risky. And potential films that deviate from the norm by being carried by a black character — or, say, an LGBT lead, or a cast with predominantly women — can scare these (mostly straight, white guy) producers away simply because they're different.

Never mind there are many examples that suggest this line of thinking gets it wrong, like last year's "Straight Outta Compton" and "Spy" — two films that tore up at the box office. But the reality is, movies made by and starring people of color are still relatively few and far between, which doesn't bode well for diversity come award show season.

Actors in "Straight Outta Compton," a film many thought was largely snubbed at this year's Oscars. Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

It also doesn't help that when storylines featuring people of color actually do make it onto the big screen, Hollywood has an ugly habit of filling the role with a white actor. This is called "whitewashing" and it's been happening for generations (from Elizabeth Taylor playing "Cleopatra" in 1963 to, more recently, Rooney Mara playing Tiger Lily in "Pan").

The buildup to Rock's hosting was almost palpable, as the comedian — never shy about speaking his mind — had pretty much kept mum.

It must've had more to do with him building hype than not having two cents to give. Because as his past comments on Oscars diversity show, he's not one to keep quiet on relevant subject matter.

Chris Rock as host of the Academy Awards in 2005. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

"If there’s a lot of black people [at the Oscars], I will host the show again,” he joked on “Late Show With David Letterman” after hosting in 2005. “There were a lot of black people that night. Jamie Foxx, Morgan [Freeman], Beyoncé — it was like the Def Oscar Jam.”

This year, Rock kept a relatively low profile on the controversy leading up to Sunday night, referring to the Oscars as "the white BET Awards" in one tweet and sharing a mysteriously vague #Blackout message in another.


The good news with all of this? Rock's monologue is part of a wave of (deserved) criticism demanding better of Hollywood.

Last year, when every acting category was filled with white actors, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite swept the web, drawing attention to the issue. The hashtag resurfaced this year, bigger and better than before and drawing renewed attention to this problem.

The Academy heard the outcry and has taken some steps in diversifying its membership, which one can only hope will reflect in the artists nominated down the road.

"We are going to continue to take action and not just speak," Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy president, said during the event's red carpet coverage.

Many, many actors (of all colors) also have spoken out on the issue, too, saying big changes are very necessary.

But until that change comes, we have Rock's two cents.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

Looking for some good gift ideas that wont break the bank? We've got you covered with these five suggestions available at our very own Upworthy Market! You can feel good about your purchases, too. That's because every item you buy from the Upworthy Market directly supports the artisans who crafted it.


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Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

A professor's message to students has gone viral.

If you know any teachers, you probably know how utterly exhausted they all are, from preschools all the way up through college. Pandemic schooling has been rough, to say the least, and teachers have borne the brunt of the impact it's had on students.

Most teachers I've known have bent over backwards to help students succeed during this time, taking kids' mental and emotional health into consideration and extending the flexibility and grace we all could use. But teachers have their own mental and emotional needs, too, and at some point, something's gotta give.

A college student posted screenshots of a professor's message on Twitter with the comment "someone PLEASE check on my professor." It's simply incredible.

The message reads:

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