The 88th Academy Awards took place last Sunday and, as usual, a bunch of really rich white people dressed up nicely and gave each other statues made of gold.
It’s been obvious that the Academy has a diversity problem. Yet, even when Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 14, we were struck by certain glaring snubs. There were films this year helmed and featuring people of color that deserved to be nominated in the big categories — but didn’t — notably “Creed,” “Beasts of No Nation,” and “Straight Outta Compton.”
In a tone-deaf and superficial kind of awareness of its lack of racial diversity, the Academy hired Chris Rock to emcee the ceremony and shoved out joking bits — bits that undoubtedly went through multiple rounds of editing and rehearsals — about how the Academy realizes #OscarsSoWhite.
One of the most offensive jokes of the night was when Rock announced that PricewaterhouseCoopers had sent over “their most dedicated, accurate, and hardworking representatives.” And then three East Asian children in suits walked out on stage.
Fun fact: According to the Economist, 94 percent of the Academy’s 6,000 voting members are white. Another fun fact, courtesy of Phil “Angry Asian Man” Yu on Twitter: More white actresses have won Oscars for roles that required them to put on yellowface than actual Asian actresses have won Oscars.
Rock’s bit was a brainless joke that swings at tired, old racist stereotypes.
It’s not that we take offense to being portrayed as math-smart or nerdy.
It’s that we are limited to only this identity. It’s that so many of our idiosyncratic stories of genuine struggle are met with apathy because people think they already know us. It’s that we don’t get a place at the table — in this editorial’s context, we mean in representation in mainstream movies — but this is a problem that extends across many industries and fields.
In response to Rock’s Asian joke, Hornets guard Jeremy Lin told reporters, “I just feel like sometimes the way people perceive Asians or Asian Americans today can be disappointing in the way they view them. Even Asian American masculinity or whatever you want to talk about, just a lot of the ways that Asians are perceived I don’t always agree with.”
On the front page this week, we ran a story about how policy should be changed to further disaggregate demographics data in large part because a lot of ethnic groups that fall under the “Asian” racial umbrella do not exemplify the model minority stereotype. Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos pointed out that Hmongs, an ethnic minority spanning Southeast Asia, have the highest poverty and high school dropout rates relative to other Asian and Asian American groups in the United States. They need more help compared to other Asian ethnic groups. They are not being heard enough. (end)