Chris Rock Just Gave a Brilliant and Brave Oscar Speech About Hollywood Racism

In his searing opening monologue for the 88th Academy Awards—what he dubbed the “White People’s Choice Awards”—comedian Chris Rock relentlessly roasted Hollywood’s racism, in a year criticized for only nominating white actors.

“We want opportunity,” he said. “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it.” Watch the full clip above.

It was, in fact, a year marked by stellar performances from actors of color, including Michael B. JordanAbraham Attah, Idris Elba, Teyonah Parris, O’Shea Jackson, Ava DuVernay, and David Oyelowo. And Chris Rock, without pulling any punches, called the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences out on it: “If they nominated a host, I wouldn’t even get this job.”

He went on: “Is Hollywood racist? You damn right Hollywood’s racist,” Rock said. “Hollywood is sorority racist: We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”

Since its list of nominees was unveiled in January, the Academy has been criticized for its failure to nominate a single minority actor for the second year in a row. The move fueled outrage from celebrities, with some like Spike LeeJada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith refusing to attend this year’s ceremony. There was also an online campaign using the hashtag #OscarSoWhite. (One bright spot: Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, who is vying to become the first director since Joseph Mankiewicz to win best director for the second year in a row for The Revenant.)

In response to the criticism, the Academy vowed to change its membership rules to boost diversity among voters. (This could take a while: A recent Los Angeles Times analysis found that Oscar voters are currently 91 percent white and 77 percent male.) The film industry’s diversity problem comes down to, in part, a problem with the creative pipeline, which is largely made up of white guys. Research shows film studios may be throwing away millions of dollars for their failure to embrace diversity.

It was the talk of the night, as actors took to the marathon of preshow red carpet interviews to raise awareness, not just about diversity, but about sexual assaults on college campuses and clergy sexual abuse.

Before the event, Rock had no qualms about his willingness to criticize the Academy. Just last week, he took to Twitter:

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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