So are the Oscars Racist?



It’s that time of the year again and, as always, it seems most of the western world holds its communal breath in anticipation of this year’s winners at Hollywood’s Oscar bash. The evening never seems to disappoint – it can’t really when most of the people who are obsessed with it are only really watching to get a quick glimpse of their own private God.

However, there has been quite a rumpus over the last few weeks. What is all this talk about the Oscars being racist! This certainly brought the Celebs out in force giving speeches which at times were more diva like and full of trash than their actual thankyou speeches. In fact, many ‘A’ list celebrities decided they would boycott just to show how at one they were with the whole black population. Clearly these were celebs who were not receiving Oscars (or perhaps had no chance of receiving Oscars as it didn’t seem to cause an issue with the prize giving at all.)

The first black award

So does this all stack up? Do records suggest the Oscars are racist? Well, things don’t start off well in their favour. The first black person to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel for her role as a maid in “Gone with the Wind”. The fact was, during the ceremony she was segregated from the rest of the white people on a little table on her own.

Ok. This sounds remarkably racist at first thought, but you have to take it in context of the period. At this time in this part of America Blacks were segregated – it would have happened anywhere in the US – let alone an Oscars ceremony. So weren’t the Oscars in fact doing a brave thing by recognising Hattie’s talents at a time when it perhaps would not have been welcomed so readily?

Is this more about how films are made?

There is also the fact that after Hattie we had to wait another 30 years before Sidney Poitier won an Oscar for “Lillies of the Field”. That surely shows that the Oscars are racist doesn’t it? Again, to put it into context you have to consider how many black people or ethnic minorities would be blessed with a leading role. In the days before equality as we know it today (and even today), film scripts tend to be written for white leads. So it is only natural that there is more likelihood of there being a white winner than a black winner. That has little to do with the Oscars themselves – that is to do with culture and society.

I am for ethnic equality just as much as the next man but let’s get our facts right. Maybe blaming the Oscars for all that alleged inequality relieves us of the guilt we feel in everyday society. Society is nowhere near as fair as it should be but it is getting there. That desire to reach that goal is apparent or we perhaps would not be getting so angry about who is winning awards and who isn’t.

Chris Rock should get an Oscar!

Having said all of that, the Oscars management met the racist criticisms by employing a black host. This smells of terrible tokenism. Heaven forbid that we start considering having token black winners just to make us feel easier. That would be horrible for everyone concerned. But Chris Rock, the black host was brilliant in bringing the issue to the fore and causing absolute hilarity. Fantastic.

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