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Chris Rock on Hollywood’s Racial Hangups

“It's a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry.”

The Oscar nominee list is whiter than last weekend’s blizzard; Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith are boycotting the event; and the host is one of the country’s most popular and outspoken African-American comedians. If there’s one thing that’s easy to predict about this year’s Academy Awards, it’s that it will be memorable.

Photo courtesy of Zohar Elkayam

How host Chris Rock will address the Academy’s racial hangups is probably still being drafted by the comedian and his writers. But two years before #OscarsSoWhite, and one year before #OscarsStillSoWhite, Rock penned a candid essay for The Hollywood Reporter that offers some insight into what he thinks about Hollywood’s entrenched color lines. Some highlights are below.

“It's a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry. I'm not even saying it's a bad thing. It just is. And the black people they do hire tend to be the same person. That person tends to be female and that person tends to be Ivy League. And there's nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, that's what I want for my daughters … But how many black men have you met working in Hollywood? They don't really hire black men. A black man with bass in his voice and maybe a little hint of facial hair? Not going to happen. It is what it is. I'm a guy who's accepted it all.”

“In most black movies—and in most black TV shows and even in most black plays—anyone with money or an education is evil, even movies made by black directors. They have to be saved by the poor people. This goes back to Good Times and What's Happening!!”

“Now, when it comes to casting, Hollywood pretty much decides to cast a black guy or they don't. We're never on the ‘short list.’ We're never ‘in the mix.’ When there's a hot part in town and the guys are reading for it, that's just what happens.”

“But there's been progress. When I was on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago, we did a sketch where I was Sassier Zamata’s dad and she had an internet show. Twenty years ago when I was on Saturday Night Live, anything with black people on the show had to deal with race, and that sketch we did didn't have anything to do with race. That was the beauty: The sketch is funny because it's funny, and that's the progress.”

“But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You're in L.A, you've got to try not to hire Mexicans. It's the most liberal town in the world, and there's a part of it that's kind of racist—not racist like ‘F— you, nigger’ racist, but just an acceptance that there's a slave state in L.A. There's this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn't exist anywhere else.”

(H/T The Hollywood Reporter)

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