Oscars 2016: the controversy surrounding race

Oscars 2016: the controversy surrounding race

Photo by Zennie Abraham / Flickr

The 88th edition of the Academy Awards ceremony, which took place last night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, is no stranger to controversy. The show tackled the issue of race representation, an issue which is not addressed for the first time in relation to the Academy Awards. This is the second year in a row when no black actors or actresses are even nominated for an award, and the lack of racial diversity was one of the cutting edge issues of the evening.

The lack of diversity was tackled even before the actual show, when the nominations were announced, and activists using the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite took to social media to complain. Several African-American celebrities such as Will Smith and Spike Lee even announced that they would boycott the event.

The host of the show, famous black comedian Chris Rock, clearly did not side-step the issue: “I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the white People’s Choice Awards. You realise if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job. So y’all would be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now”.

However, his jokes received a mixed response and some clearly uncomfortable laughs from the audience. Rock said that in 1962 or 1963, black people had more serious issues to deal with than protesting for who gets an Oscar nomination. But some people felt that he was being too dismissive as people did protest the race issue at the 1962 and 1963 Oscars.

And these were not the only times when Rock addressed the lack of diversity. He clearly stated: “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. Leo gets a great part every year. But what about the black actors?”

Finally, Rock is not the only one who made a plea for more inclusion. Cheryl Boon Isaacs, the president of the Academy, also said “Our audiences are global and rich in diversity and every facet of our industry should be as well”.

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Caroline Parker has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Bucharest. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in the same field. She specializes in gender issues, ethnic minorities, and has a passion for literature, but she loves to find out more about any subject she comes across. When she is not busy with her studies, she is attending conferences, seeing plays which deal with contemporary issues in society, traveling, taking photos for her Instagram account, and watching beauty related vlogs. She aims to become a published writer and to pursue a Ph.D. is the field of gender studies.