BLACK VOICES
02/29/2016 01:08 pm ET

The Oscars Are Over... Now What?

Diversity isn't just a trending topic that will die out after one night of self-aware jokes.
Chris Rock hosting the 88th annual Academy Awards.
MARK RALSTON via Getty Images
Chris Rock hosting the 88th annual Academy Awards.

Last night's 88th annual Academy Awards was a testament to Hollywood's special talent for dismissing its shortcomings even as it acknowledges them. 

The awards show tried to toe a tricky line -- celebrating the night's overwhelmingly white nominees, while also calling itself and the Hollywood at-large out for yet another year of snubbing filmmakers and actors of color. 

The show did this largely through host Chris Rock, whose opening monologue was a series of insightful comments about Hollywood's diversity problem mixed with off-color observations about Hollywood sexism and digs at Jada Pinkett Smith.

But if the Academy Awards was any indication of the overall problem with Hollywood, it's that the conversation was too focused on black and white. Much of the diversity talk was on the lack of black representation at the Oscars, with little mention of Latinos, Asians and other non-black people of color.

It took Sacha Baron Cohen coming out in character to present an award as Ali G (from "The Ali G Show") for there to even be a mention on the Oscar stage about the other people of color needing representation in Hollywood, and even then that came in the form of a quip about "dem hard-working little yellow people wiv tiny dongs... minions."

Rock received his biggest and most awkward laugh from the audience during his opening monologue when he said, "I’m sure there were no black nominees some of those years. Say '62 or '63, and black people did not protest. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time, you know? We had real things to protest. You know, we’re too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer."

And while his last statement rightfully may have made many feel uncomfortable, it's true, black people did have much more pressing issues to protest. Even now, in the midst of the Flint water crisis and police brutality, many would argue that a few nominations at an award show are largely irrelevant. We can recognize that while people of color aren't necessarily dying from not getting more opportunities in the film industry, the lack of opportunity is symptomatic of institutional racism as a whole. 

So, now that Hollywood's biggest night is over, what have we learned? And where do we go from here? The fact that the Oscars made somewhat of an effort to acknowledge its whiteness is certainly a sign of progress, as are the initiatives the Academy's taken to diversify its members. 

But the white producers, directors, casting agents and writers in the Hollywood and Highland Center auditorium audience last night, who laughed with awkward enthusiasm at Chris Rock's punchlines need to also be called out and held accountable in the same way as the Academy. These white industry movers and shakers have to realize that #OscarsSoWhite is really #HollywoodSoWhite, and the question of diversity and inclusion isn't just a trending topic that will die out after one night of self-aware jokes. Oscars night is over, but we still have work to do. 

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