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5 Racist Things at the 2013 Oscars

OscarsAt the Media Action Grassroots Network, we love movies! We write them, make them, and view them. And, yes we even critique them. We know how important movies are in the creation of culture, in teaching us how to view our selves, our communities, and the world around us. As cultural workers who hold art at the center of our revolution, we celebrate media when they uplift us and we hold media accountable when they fail us. It’s what we do—we challenge ourselves and our media to learn, grow, and change.  The Oscars on Sunday offered an opportunity to entertain, inspire, and unite millions of viewers under the banner of art and culture. Media Action Grassroots Network was right there watching, listening, and analyzing the spectacle before us. We weren’t alone—the tweets, blogs, and Facebook posts were rolling for over six hours by people watching all around the world. One of the blogs addressed the clear bias against women that was taking place on stage. We were so inspired by this list of the 9 Most Sexist Things at the Oscars that we decided to make our own list.

5 Racist Things at the Oscars


#1: 9 Year old black actress of Beasts of Southern Wild, youngest nominee ever, called a c*nt by the Onion.


We wish we were making this up. We’re not. Like we really want to add another item to the long list of the dehumanization of black women. Thanks, Onion. Quvenzhane


#2: There Was No Band to Drown Out Seth MacFarlane's Racist Comments


Come on! Some people had Jaws theme music attack them just because they were saying a long-winded thank you! Yet not even one lonely flute interrupted Seth. Over and over again we were abandoned by a symphony of musical bystanders who forced us to listen to comments like:"[Django Unchained] is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who's been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie." "If you bumped into Don Cheadle in the studio lot, would you try and free him?" (on Daniel Day Lewis and his method acting)"We’ve reached that point where Javier Bardem, Salma Hayek, or Penelope Cruz takes the stage and we have no idea what they’re saying but we don’t care because they’re so attractive." “Denzel has a great sense of humor.  He did all those Nutty Professor movies.” (on Denzel Washington/Eddie Murphy)


#3: White Directors Win Oscars for Movies About Race, but Don't Use Their Platform to Address Racism

Yay! There’s a private club for white men who make movies about people of color (or star as them, too).  It’s called the Academy Awards. Between the awards won for the movies Lincoln, Argo, and ZeroDarkThirty, the white directors of these films about African American slavery, Iran, and the U.S.-led war on terror failed to grasp that the white supremacy that was so useful in creating their winning dramatic storylines is the very same white supremacy that stuffed the Academy ballot box to begin with. Why can't these directors be more like Marlon Brando?


#4: Invisible in Memoriam: The People of Color the Academy's Memorial Missed

In case you watched the Memoriam, you might not be aware that people of color live, work, and die in Hollywood, too. Here are some people we wanted to say goodbye to:


Guadalupe "Lupe" Ontiveros (September 17, 1942 – July 26, 2012) was an American film and television actress. Ontiveros acted in numerous films like Selena and television shows. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on Desperate Housewives.




Russell Charles Means (November 10, 1939 – October 22, 2012) was an Oglala Sioux activist for the rights of Native Americanpeople and libertarian political activist. Means was best known for his roles in films such as The Last of Mohicans; Natural Born Killers; and Pocahontas.





Sherman Alexander Hemsley (February 1, 1938 – July 24, 2012) was an American actor, who starred in several movies and television shows. He is best known for his role as George Jefferson on the CBS television series All in the Family and The Jeffersons, and as Deacon Ernest Frye on the NBC series Amen. 




Donna Summer (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012)[1] was an American singer and songwriterwho gained prominence during the disco era of the late 1970s. She won the Best Original Song Academy Award for "Last Dance.






#5: They Didn't Tell Us the Oscar is Mexican!

Yup, Oscar is from Mexico. Maybe if there wasn’t so much misunderstanding of the role of Mexican immigrants in the U.S., the Academy wouldn’t be so ashamed to claim their roots. 


A Single Shining Moment

There was one shining moment for racial justice. Just one. And it wasn’t when Tarantino pointed at Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx and said, “its all because of you.” It was when the film Inocente won an Oscar for Documentary Short Subject, and the film’s star and subject, a homeless and formerly undocumented teenager, was recognized on the Oscar stage. Yep, we love movies, but hate that recognition by the Academy Awards relies on the same stereotypes that dehumanize and impoverish our communities. The Academy, and its awards show, needs to change.



Racing the Oscars Blog Round-up

Crunk Feminist Collective: A Love Letter for Quvenzhane Wallis

Latino Rebels: Did the Onions Tweet Go to Far?

Latino Rebels: What We Loved About the 2013 Oscars and What Gets the No Mames
Salon: Twitter Slams Oscar Host Seth MacFarlane
Colorlines: Oscars In Memoriam Snubs Lupe Onitveros

The Root: the 26 black oscar winners 

Rolling Out: Black directors, films snubbed by Oscars 

NYT: Black characters are still too good, too bad, or invisible

IndieWire: Remember Morgan Freeman's Statement On The Lack Of Black Representation At The Oscars?

Entertainment Weekly: Oscars and Casting: Hollywood insiders discuss diversity

AlterNet: Oscar Loves a White Savior

Center for Media Justice: Argo, Whitewashing and Artistic License 

Open Letter to the Academy from the National Hispanic Media Coalition


Additional Background

All the Winners (Slate: Oscar Winners 2013)

Minute by Minute Re-cap (The Atlantic Wire: Oscars 2013 Live Recap)

Moviegoer Demographics by Race: People of color comprise approximately 36% of all moviegoers in the U.S. While Latinos make up about 15 percent of the U.S. population, they watched 25% of all movies seen in 2012

Seth Macfarlane’s Most Controversial Jokes



Andrea Quijada is the Executive Director of Media Literacy Project where she deconstructs media for personal and professional enjoyment. She presents nationally and internationally on the impact of media on culture, politics, and technology, serves on the Leadership Team of the national Media Action Grassroots Network, and is a 2010 alum of Women’s Media Center Progressive Women’s Voices. To see her in action, watch her recent TED talk here. 


Malkia Cyril is the founder and Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice (CMJ), launched in 2008 to strengthen the media activism and communications capacity of grassroots social justice movements.  For the past 15 years, Malkia’s award-winning work has empowered local social justice leaders and organizations with the skills and strategies they need to navigate the complex media environment of the 21st century. 



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