Tell me why it’s not racist to oppose Black Oscar categories


Good comedy is like sociology only better. Today’s edition: Race and gender.

In Chris Rock’s monologue at the Oscars, he said this:

Hey, if you want Black nominees every year, you need to just have Black categories. That’s what you need. You need to have Black categories.

You already do it with men and women. Think about it: There’s no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting.

C’mon. There’s no reason. It’s not track and field.

You don’t have to separate ’em. You know, Robert De Niro’s never said, “I better slow this acting down, so Meryl Streep can catch up.”

No, not at all, man. If you want Black people every year at the Oscars, just have Black categories. Like Best Black Friend.

If you say, “Where does it end?”, then tell me why you don’t oppose the gender categories. Tell me why it’s not racist to leave the acting gender categories unquestioned but oppose race categories. Not making that argument, of course, just asking the question.

12 thoughts on “Tell me why it’s not racist to oppose Black Oscar categories

  1. I face the same issue when I work on racial disparities in incarceration, because there is also a gender disparity in incarceration. Well maybe not “the same” issue, as here there are not separate categories of offenses by race or gender, but I treat the disparity in race differently from how I treat the disparity in gender.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps heir hope is that by opposing black categories, they’re convincing us (themselves?) the system isn’t racist. To allow black categories would be to concede racism, and that’s a bit too much truth to swallow.


  3. I see two problems with creating different categories by race (other than the ceremony becoming even longer than it already is). First, we’ve been down this road before with segregated sports. The Negro leagues were never as prestigious as the NBL. I suspect something similar would happen in a racially segregated Academy Awards show. Also, I would argue that this “separate but unequal” segregation already happens with gender too. Case and point: Leo’s win seems to be getting a lot more attention than Brie Larson’s.

    The second problem is that race is slippery (so is gender but that’s a different discussion). The racial group people think a person belongs to is often enough different from the one with which the person identifies. People sometimes identify as belonging to one group but pass as another. Also, more and more people are apparently identifying as biracial. So separating awards by race might ultimately stir up more controversy than its worth.


  4. I wonder if the guys who first established a “female” category had a kind of affirmative action impulse. Affirmative action and a best actress award aren’t identical of course. But there might be a similar motivation driving part of both.

    It’s possible that taking apart the gendered category and making everyone compete on things other than their ascribed identities might actually give black people (and ugly people or Muslim people etc.) a better shot at the awards. “equal before the academy,” etc. Maybe it would diminish the win for some blacks if they weren’t competing with whites.

    I don’t know enough about this scene to endorse that view but it’s at least possible to not be a racist and debate the issue.


    1. Why do Asians need a category? If you believe Chris Rock, they’re too busy doing your accounts and making your phones.


  5. I would argue that it’s quite possible both are wrong. Instead of dividing oscars per gender or race or whatever, they should, maybe introduce categories like “best romance actor” “best comedy actor” “best versatile actor”. Age categories may have more sense than gender categories.

    However, dividing categories by sex may be due to our instinctive dychotomization of the world. On average, different things seems to attract little boys and little girls (even when they are 40 years old). From my experience, for example, two thirds or more of s-f books are man. We also tend to look for different things in man and women, and you had to consciously defeat your biases. So, still dividing by gender has, imo more sense (which does not mean much sense, mind you) than dividing by race.

    Just my opinion, of course.


  6. I can understand why there are gender categories. I’m not saying I agree or not, simply that the categories are representative of the status quo. Men behave one way. Women behave another way (According to society) therefore the categories reflect those possible behaviours according to the gender. The black category would in fact fall in line with that line of thinking actually. Can you imagine the kind? The black friend was spot on as a cinema stereotype. But it’s a complex question he (you) pose.


  7. I think if what you want are awards partitioned out a certain way (50% to this group, 14% to that group) you have to force categories. Particularly when the nomination and award decisions are made by an admittedly elitist, insular group that poorly reflects the distribution of groups in the wider population.

    So, yes, Black categories. And Asian categories, and Hispanic categories, etcetera. Of course, they’d have to do away with the current “best” categories and replace them with “White” categories, and then we could have a discussion about how much more air time those nominations and winners get on the media. There’s also the “where does it end” problem, but hey, it means a longer ceremony and more ad time to sell!

    While they’re at it there could be “best actor/actress cast in a racialized role that does not match their self reported race”. It won’t stop movies like “Gods of Egypt” from being made, but it might make for some amusement, along the lines of the Razzies. I think this is all predicated on the academy being more introspective and thoughtful then they have been thus far, however.


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