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.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less
Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash (left), Kimberly Zapata (right)

Picking a psychiatrist is a precarious situation, one I know all too well. I have bipolar disorder, depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. I have been in and out of therapy for nearly 20 years. And while I have left doctors for a wide variety of reasons—I've moved, I felt better and "been better," I've given up on pharmacology and stopped taking meds—I've only had to fire one.

The reason? She was judgemental and disrespectful. In her office, I wasn't seen, heard or understood.

To help you understand the gravity of the situation, I should give you some context. In the spring of 2017, I was doing well and feeling good, at least for the most part. My family was healthy. I was happy, and life was more or less normal, so I stopped seeing my psychiatrist. I decided I didn't need my meds.

But by the summer, my mood was shifting. I was cycling (which occurs when bipolar patients vacillate between periods of mania and depression) and when I suffered a miscarriage that fall, I plunged into a deep depressive episode—one I knew I couldn't pull myself out of.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Dole
True

As you sit down to eat your breakfast in the morning or grab an afternoon snack, take a minute to consider your food, how it was made, and how it got to your plate.

The fruit on your plate were grown and picked on farms, then processed, packaged and sent to the grocery store where you bought them.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is, that process is anything but simple and at every step in the journey to your plate, harm can be caused to the people who grow it, the communities that need it, and the planet we all call home.

For example, thousands of kids live in food deserts and areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Around the world, one in three children suffer from some form of malnutrition, and yet, up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten.

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less
via Tania / Twitter

Therapy animals have become a controversial issue of recent, even though they've helped over 500,000 people overcome psychological and physical issues that have made it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

It's because countless people have tried to pass off their pets as service animals, making it hard for legitimate, trained animals to gain acceptance in public.

So when people hear about emotional support llamas, they're met with understandable cynicism. However, studies show they are great at helping children with autism spectrum disorder, and they are routinely used to cheer up people residents in retirement homes.

Keep Reading Show less