#OscarsSoWhite: What attendees of color had to say about Hollywood’s diversity problem

Host Chris Rock speaks at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

While the Emmys had one of it’s most racially diverse shows ever — and the Grammys didn’t do so bad either — Hollywood braced itself for controversy ahead of the Oscars.

That’s because, for the second year in a row, none of the nominees in the four major acting categories are people of color. Not to mention, there’s hardly any people of color nominated in any category this year.

Some actors, actresses and directors of color, like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith, decided to boycott the ceremony.

In a society that’s paying more and more attention to the importance of diversity, this year’s nominations were a big problem — and point to a larger problem, the lack of available roles for people of color.

No doubt, #OscarsSoWhite was bound to be the topic of the evening.

Here’s what some attendees of color had to say about diversity on the red carpet and during the show:

Kerry Washington on not joining the Oscars boycott:

Kerry Washington arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Kerry Washington arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

“If you look at the history of movements, the history of change, a lot of voices are needed at the table,” Washington said. “So I really respect and actually admire some of the people who are not here tonight. I really get it. But for me, I felt like … my voice is best used at the table. As a new member of the Academy … I really want to be part of the conversation to make sure that there’s institutional change, so that we never have a year like this again. So we can be as inclusive as possible.”

Louis Gossett Jr., one of 13 African American actors to win an Oscar, on if Hollywood needs to change:

“It’s called being a part of the family — exclusion or inclusion — I’m included. I’ve been included since I got here. One step away. If you want to change something, change it from the inside. Change it within the family. We need a little growing up– all of us, all of us. Not just whites, blacks, all of us, we have to be one Academy, one people, artists. Once we regard each other like one family then that won’t happen again.”

Common making a silent statement in his all-white tuxedo:

‘We know it’s obvious that it’s a problem, and now we want to work towards a solution. I want to be a part of that change. I’m an Academy member now, so I want to be a voice for the black, brown people, women, the people that usually get overlooked. We know that it’s not just an Oscar problem — it’s a Hollywood issue of not seeing a lot of inclusion in the films being made and the people making the decisions, and we also know it’s an American issue. In all truth, I know that we’re going to make this change — we had to speak up, people had to speak up for this change to happen.”

Whoopi Goldberg (not Oprah) on Hollywood’s overarching under-representation:

Kelly Ripa, left, and Whoopi Goldberg arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Kelly Ripa, left, and Whoopi Goldberg arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

“Say to every person of color, ‘don’t go to the Oscars,’ then it is #OscarsSoWhite, and who’s going to be there to represent. Who’s going to say something’s wrong? So for me, yeah I’m here…cause you know, I want you to know I’m here, and you can’t help but see I’m black. It’s not just black artists — it’s Asian artists and women and Hispanic artists and Middle Eastern artists. There’s a lot under-representation. We have to get to the people that are casting and the producers who are producing and giving money for movies — and we’ll get it better hopefully.”

Full of funny and serious remarks about diversity, here are some key moments from Chris Rock’s opening monologue:

Kicking off his speech, Rock said, “Man, I counted at least 15 black people in that montage!” Going on to call the Oscars the ‘White People’s Choice Awards.’

Mentioning that in it’s 88 years of existence, most years featured nominee lists vacant of diversity. “I’m sure there was no black nominees some of those years,” said Rock. “Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time. Too busy being raped an lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. You know when you’re grandmother is swinging from a tree it’s really hard to care about Best Documentary Foreign Short, but what happened this year? What happened? People went mad!”

“This year, in the ‘in memoriam’ package, it’s just gonna be black people that was shot by the cops on their way to the movies. Yes, yes, I said it…”

Stacey Dash speaks at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Stacey Dash speaks at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Stacey Dash’s quick cameo:

“I can’t wait to help my people out — Happy Black History Month!” The ‘Clueless’ star said when she made a brief, somewhat confusing cameo on the Oscar stage. Want to know what it was all about? Stacey explains it all on her blog.

Kevin Hart on staying positive, people of color not nominated:

“I’m a positive guy — positive overall beats negative. With that being said, I want to applaud all the actors and actresses of color that didn’t get nominated. The reason why I say that is because I want them to understand that tonight should determine the hard work and effort that you put into your craft. At the end of the day, we love what we do and we’re breaking major ground doing it. These problems of today will eventually problems of the old. Let’s not this negative issue of diversity beat us. Let’s do what we do best and work hard.”

Pakistani-Canadian woman Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on winning ‘Best Documentary Short’:

“This is what happens when determined women get together. This week the Pakistani prime minister has said that he will change the law on honor killing after watching this film. That is the power of film.”

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president (and woman of color) Cheryl Boone Isaacs formally addresses the Academy about diversity:

“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes.

“The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity diversity  in our 2016 class and beyond. As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.

“This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the 60s and 70s, it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.”

Alejandro G. Inarritu is seen from backstage as he accepts the award for best director for “The Revenant” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Alejandro G. Inarritu is seen from backstage as he accepts the award for best director for “The Revenant” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Alejandro G. Inarritu fights elevator music to talk diversity, accept ‘Best Director’ award for second year in a row:

“I am very lucky to be here tonight, but unfortunately many others haven’t had the same luck. There is a line in [“The Revanant”] that says, ‘They don’t listen to you. They just see the color of your skin.’ So what a great opportunity for our generation to really liberate ourselves from every prejudice and this tribe of thinking, and make sure for once and forever that the color of our skin become as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”

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