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Did Chris Rock’s Point About Fighting in Front of White People Be Proven by the Oscars Snubs?

Rihanna (for best original song for Raise Me Up from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) and Angela Bassett (for best supporting actress in the same film) were among the black nominees who went home empty-handed. With the exception of Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue jokes about Will Smith (“If anyone in this theatre commits an act of violence at any point during the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and permitted to give a 19-minute long speech,”) and Questlove’s ironic presentation of the award for best original feature documentary, which he won last year and which Rock was presenting when he got slapped, last night’s theme for Black people could have been a parody We received nothing from anyone, at all.

The question won’t go down well with the many viewers who disapproved of Chris Rock’s Netflix clapback special Selective Outrage, an uneven hour that has been critically panned since its release. Yet, if you watched the 95th Academy Awards broadcast last night, you might have noted that it lacked the Black star power that dominated the ceremony the year before. This was true up until Will Smith took offence at a joke and removed Chris Rock’s smirk in front of white people.

And that reminded me of Rock’s attempt at a literal mic drop moment at the conclusion of his programme, when he explained why he didn’t hit back at Smith: “…because I was raised. What my parents taught me, do you know? Not in front of white people, fight.

Does that make his parents’ warning about getting into a fight in front of Caucasians false? If not that warning, generations of Black people have heard something similar, with the attitude that even the tiniest act of individual public misconduct risks effects on the group. Every quip is based on the idea that someone has just embarrassed us by appearing in a viral video for doing something dumb or embarrassing. It’s what governs that respectability politics that so many of us rebel against. We are aware that no amount of politeness will shield us from maltreatment, disregard, or exclusion.

It should have been obvious from the beginning that Rock’s views on race, gender, and his relationship to whiteness as a wealthy, Black man, wouldn’t be a master class in comedic evolution. This is true regardless of what you thought of his delivery of that particular joke or of his material overall – the criticisms range from the frequently repeated idea that Rock is a misogynist to the observation that jokes that would’ve worked in his early 2000s heyday fall flat in 2023. Rock, a 58-year-old comedian, based part of his act on the fact that he is wealthy enough to send his daughter to a prestigious private school and to successfully lobby for her expulsion so that she might learn that her father’s wealth won’t always shield her from her Blackness. The argument was that Chris Rock is wealthy and has lived a long enough time to still be afraid of white supremacy and its propensity to take away any hard-earned Black privilege.

Yet, we have also always known that entry to white areas like the Academy Awards, Grammys, Corporate America, the Ivy League, or the NFL, which are used to gauge progress, is always shaky and subject to revocation. It’s also challenging to see last night’s Oscars as a sort of revocation.

The Academy had never come close to a celebration of Black culture before the ceremony last year. Smith, a main guy for many years, at last received a Best Actor award. “Summer of Soul” by Questlove was given full credit. Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall, two Black women, shared hosting responsibilities with Amy Schumer. The show was co-produced by Will Packer. And it was completely gone this year.

Nobody other than Smith himself gave us a hint that this might happen; he said it crossed his mind that going on stage and slapping Chris Rock might be the confrontation in front of white people that ruined everything. In accepting the Best Actor trophy, he expressed his hope that the Academy will call him back. He had to have been aware, somewhere in the back of his mind, that his ultimate 10-year exclusion from society may also serve as a cultural ban. It’s plausible that Rock and Smith were both observing and contemplating if last night might have been the beginning of it.


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  • Did Chris Rock’s Point About Fighting in Front of White People Be Proven by the Oscars Snubs?
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Neha Garg
Neha Garg
Neha Garg is a columnist for entertainment news. She gives short, up-to-date reports on what's going on in the entertainment world. Her writing is about a wide range of things, like movies, music, TV shows, and news about famous people. She looks at the entertainment business from a new angle and has a knack for finding interesting stories that a wide range of readers will enjoy. Her writing is interesting, full of useful information, and always up-to-date, which makes her a go-to source for those who want to know what's new in the entertainment world.

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