One of Chris Rock’s jokes opening the 88th Academy Awards is drawing fire online. The Oscars host devoted nearly his entire monologue to the issue of racial diversity in Hollywood (all his jokes here), but one line has some viewers claiming Rock misstepped.
The joke: “Why are we protesting this Oscars? It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this ‘no black nominees’ thing happened at least 71 other times. You got to figure that it happened in the 50s, in the 60s. One of those years, Sidney [Poitier] didn’t put out a movie. I’m sure there were no black nominees some of those years, say ‘62’ or ‘63. Black people did not protest. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foregin short.”
In case you didn’t spot the offending phrase, it was Rock saying “we had real things to protest” decades ago — which some took as the host suggesting there are not legitimate issues to protest now.
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Others defended the joke, suggesting that those offended were reading too much into his meaning. After all, Rock is clearly comparing two very different things here — protesting a Hollywood awards ceremony versus major issues of the civil rights era. Rock also made a policy brutality joke in the monologue, and called for studios to give black actors more great roles.