Chris Rock decided not to skip his hosting gig at the 88th Academy Awards on Sunday night, and instead put on a brilliant monologue that called for equality between white actors and actors of color.
In addition, the standup comedian and actor said that Hollywood should provide equal opportunities for actors and actresses, regardless of race. This would be the ultimate solution for the absence of black actors getting nominated for an Academy Award.
However, despite his courageous act to point out the problems concerning equality in the Hollywood system, Rock was bashed by people on social media after making a tasteless — and some have said — racist joke about Asians.
— Quartz (@qz) February 29, 2016
Right after his monologue, Chris Rock called in three Asian kids and described them as accountants for PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm in charge of the tabulation of votes for the Academy Award winners.
Rock even gave the three kids funny fictitious names, reinforcing the stereotype that Asians are diligent workers who excel in math.
“They sent us their most dedicated, accurate, and hardworking representatives. Please welcome Ming Zhu, Bao Ling, and David Moskowitz,” he quipped.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 29, 2016
As if his previous remarks were not bad enough, the comedian added that people who got offended by the joke should just tweet about it in their phones, which are probably made by the same kids. Chris Rock was alluding to alleged child labor practices that are very common in Asia, particularly in China.
Obviously, a number of Asian celebrities, as well as proponents of equality, reacted against Rock’s joke.
Former New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin was not happy with the joke, saying that for the longest time, bashing Asians has been considered “cool” and “ok.”
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) March 1, 2016
“Seriously though, when is this going to change?!? Tired of it being ‘cool’ and ‘ok’ to bash Asians smh,” posted Jeremy Lin, who now plays for the Charlotte Hornets.
— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) February 29, 2016
Meanwhile, Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu was even more displeased, saying “To parade little kids on stage w/no speaking lines merely to be the butt of a racist joke is reductive & gross.”
To parade little kids on stage w/no speaking lines merely to be the butt of a racist joke is reductive & gross. Antithesis of progress.
— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) February 29, 2016
Some social media users also said that it is hypocritical for Chris Rock to call for equality between white and black actors and then make a racist joke against Asians.
“Chris Rock doing an awesome job but addressing diversity issues does not go well with a racist Asian joke & using Asian kids as props,” says one Twitter user.
Another added, “Chris Rock spent the entire night talking about the importance of diversity. Brings out CHILDREN to make a racist Asian joke.”
Chris Rock spent the entire night talking about the importance of diversity.Brings out CHILDREN to make a racist Asian joke. #doublestandard
— Olivia Ketron (@oketron16) February 29, 2016
Reports said that the issue would not have been as serious as it was if more Asian actors and actresses were nominated or won Oscars. Unfortunately, Asian-American actors are often snubbed for lead roles, and in the several times that they are included in films, their characters often have one, two, or zero lines.
On the other hand, Rock did not joke about Latinos, but neither did he call for equality in opportunities compared to white American actors.
Aside from Rock’s joke about Asians, another issue that some netizens raised is his decision to include lynching in his lines as if it is something to laugh about.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 29, 2016
One Twitter user said that Chris Rock should have been more responsible in using such a tragic reference and talking about it in such a light-hearted manner.
Lynching is an act wherein a group of people kills someone accused of a crime without legal trial or due process. It is an act that was common a few decades ago, when African Americans were still fighting for their rights.
[Images by Earl Gibson III and Streeter Lecka, Getty Images]