What you need to know
#OscarsSoWhite or #WhiteOscars has been a widely discussed issue since the nominees were announced in January. However when Chris Rock, host of the awards ceremony, made an “Asian joke” on stage, he triggered different comments and reactions worldwide. Taiwanese netizens are no exception and have been debating over the incident and why Asians are discriminated in the US.
Compiled by Shin-wei Chang
After the Oscar nominees were announced in January, some critics pointed out the lack of African-American nominees. The Economist reports, 60% of the voting members for the awards are white, and 95% of the nominees are white as well. The topic also generated hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite and #WhiteOscars.
On February 28, Chris Rock hosted the Oscars and opened by ridiculing the Oscars as the “White People’s Choice Awards.” BBC reports, the way Rock dealt with racial issues was complimented in general. However, when the host mentioned the accounting firm to thank them for calculating votes, he introduced the “most dedicated, accurate and hard working representatives” of the firm. Then three Asian children in suits and carrying briefcases walked onto the stage. Some have criticized this as a demonstration of racial stereotypes, in which Asians are considered good at math and hardworking.
What’s more, he said, “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone—that was also made by these kids,” apparently relevant to the child labor issue. While the audience in the ceremony laughed and applauded, the joke provoked wide discussion over racial stereotypes.
Different reactions on Twitter, including Asian American celebrities
BBC reports, celebrities expressed their disappointment via Twitter, including Constance Wu, the actress in “Fresh Off the Boat.” She tweeted, “To parade little kids on stage w/no speaking lines merely to be the butt of a racist joke is reductive & gross.” Jeffery Wright, an actor, also commented “Half-assed Asian joke, #Oscar, then preach about diversity?”
The joke also provoked an outrage in the Asian-American community. NBA star Jeremy Lin commented on Twitter, “When is this going to change?!?” Lin added, “Tired of it being ‘cool’ and ‘ok’ to bash Asians smh [shaking my head] #Oscars”
Fox News Network reports, there have been different reactions to the Asian joke on Twitter. Some said it “isn’t funny” and “didn’t garner a laugh from me,” while others appreciate the joke pointing out that it was “the only way Asians actually appeared on this year’s show.”
Debates on racial discrimination among Taiwanese netizens
On Ptt.cc, an online Bulletin Board System that has over one million registered users in Taiwan, a number of netizens are discussing this issue.
Some people agree with the idea of “the racial hierarchy in the US: the highest is the White, then the Black, and Asians are the last.” The other people mentioned ethnic succession theory to explain why Asians are discriminated in the US society. In the theory, once an originally discriminated group generally gains a higher social status, another ethnical minority, usually settling in later, has to take their place as the discriminated.
In one of the posts following the discussion, the author praised the Asian joke, saying that Rock was calling for the attention from the globe to the child labor issue. However, other netizens rebut that this is the very mindset that stops Asians from fighting back against discrimination.
Edited by Olivia Yang
“How racially skewed are the Oscars?” (The Economist)
“Why the Oscars’ Omission of ‘Selma’ Matters” (The New York Times)
“Oscars 2016: Host Chris Rock rapped over Asia-American joke” (BBC)
“Chris Rock’s ‘Asian joke’ receives mixed reactions” (Fox News Network)
“Chris Rock criticized after Asian joke at Oscars” (CNN)
“Chris Rock’s Asian joke at the Oscars blasted as hypocritical” (USA Today)