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

Chris Rock got real at the 2016 Oscars.

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.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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