Will Smith’s assault on comedian Chris Rock during the live televised Academy Awards ceremony watched by millions is a godsend for racists and a slap in the face of racial equality and progress. As America struggles with its ongoing racial reckoning, Smith has given bigots ammunition for and confirmation of their stereotypes of Blacks.
Smith’s caricature-confirming slap heard ’round the world comes at a time when the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has been taking steps to address the #OscarsSoWhite criticism, that Hollywood’s preeminent industry organization and the annual awards it bestows were biased. In terms of membership (long dominated by older male whites), the Academy, which was founded back in 1927, has become more inclusive and diverse and its splendid new movie museum in Los Angeles focuses on issues of ethnic and gender representation.
In terms of the actual Academy Awards, more minorities have been winning those coveted golden statuettes, including: Danial Kaluuya, who praised “Chairman Fred,” the Black Panther leader he portrayed in 2020’s Judas and the Black Messiah, while presenting an award on the March 27, 2022 telecast; Mexican Alfonso Cuaron as Best Director for 2018’s Roma; the 2019 Korean feature Parasite, which won four Oscars, including Bong Joon Ho for Best Director and Best Motion Picture; Korean Youn Yuh-jung for Best Supporting Actress in 2020’s Minari; etc.