As a black woman, I agree with Chris Rock - institutional racism exists, but the Oscars sexism row went too far

If two or more Black people start to work together, no matter the product, it automatically becomes a “Black thing”. But women spend hours dressing up for the Oscars - it would be rude not to ask who they're wearing

Tola Fisher
Tuesday 01 March 2016 12:39
Screen talk: Chris Rock made the audience uncomfortable
Screen talk: Chris Rock made the audience uncomfortable

Resplendent in Burberry with sole approval from (Christian) Louboutin, Chris Rock, host of the 88th Oscars opened by delivering a winning monologue which appeared to have nothing to do with the nominees the event celebrates and everything to do with the controversy surrounding it. (BTW, other than Leo, does anyone know who won anything else?)

Like most modern comedians, Chris Rock draws upon the offensive for material while managing to make a rather good point about the type of racism in Hollywood today: “…Their prejudice is “sorority racist, like ‘We like you, Ronda, but you’re not a Kappa.’”. I get this. Most of us in the black community get this.

Historically, when Black people moved into new neighbourhoods, White people moved themselves out. If we want in, they want out. Of course a token is usually allowed. So taking the fashion industry as example, Naomi (Campbell) was a supermodel along with her white counterparts but when other black models dared also to be beautiful then the problem arose – which one shall we use now?

In fact, several of my Black designer friends deliberately choose white models in order to avoid being seen as a “Black designer” with a target audience based on their abundance of melanin production. It’s like a one-in, one-out system. If two or more Black people start to work together, no matter the product, it automatically becomes a “Black thing”.

So yes, insidious racism is a serious and continuing problem. Chris Rock’s comments resonated when he said: “We want opportunity – give black actors the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it. Leo gets a great part every year. What about Jamie Foxx?”

Placing aside the obvious artistic differences between these two named actors, what Chris is really asking for is a little more coffee with that milk, please and I’m pretty sure all of us with our PC hats on would agree.

Where Chris started to lose the vote though, is when he added another taboo subject to his speech. Racism and sexism? Really, Chris? You’re a braver man than many.

With reference to the #AskHerMore hashtag which protests against the seemingly inane questions women are asked on the red carpet, Rock continued: “You’re not allowed to ask women what they’re wearing any more. Everything’s not sexism; everything’s not racism. They ask the men more because they’re all wearing the exact same thing. If George Clooney came in a lime-green tux with a swan coming out of his ass they’d say, ‘What are you wearing George?’”

Cue outrage about how Rock can stand up for institutional racism, and call out insidious incidences of it, but won’t do the same for women and institutional sexism.

But I agree with Chris Rock. Actresses and their female celebrity counterparts presumably spend a fortune on stylists and private fittings with sought-after designers to look good on the red carpet; personally I’d be offended if I didn’t get asked about my outfit.

There should be more Black people in Hollywood, and every other industry. The racism he humorously called out is endemic and extreme.

But a far as #AskHerMore goes, I think we all need to just lighten up a bit. Oops.

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