The 88th Academy Awards aired live on Sunday, February 28th, 2016. Filmed in the heart of Los Angeles, the awards brought together directors, producers, writers, and the cast that turned their legendary visions into a reality.
While the night was filled with beautiful gowns and tuxedos, exciting performances, and Girl Scout cookies, one of the most memorable parts was the social justice aspect of the night. From Vice President of the United States Joe Biden giving an honest talk about sexual assault to Lady Gaga's "Till It Happens To You" performance, Leonardo calling out climate change in his acceptance speech, and Chris Rock's opening monologue exposing blatant racism in Hollywood, the heavily-viewed event brought attention to some of the biggest issues facing society today.
However, it wasn't all well-received. As a result of the open conversations surround the issues; some viewers expressed their dissent, accusing the award show of blaming white people for all their problems. People were offended at climate change being discussed, when Leonardo DiCaprio is a multimillion dollar actor. What's more, people expressed dissent about Joe Biden appearing at the awards to speak out about sexual assault on college campuses. Check out the tweets of the night showing people's disagreement:
Dear white people: I understand that even chipping a fraction of an inch of your post-imperialistic dominance is enough to make you feel threatened, scared, and vulnerable. So coming from a white woman, here's why being uncomfortable watching the Oscars is an absolutely normal thing.
First of all, let's talk about Chris Rock's opening monologues. Many white people commented on the monologue, accusing of it being racist towards white people. Now, I'm going to say this loud and clear so that you can hear it over your Taylor Swift Spotify playlist: reverse racism does not exist. Racism is a result of privilege and power, which white people have historically been given. Thus, when people of color rise up, it is equalization, for they have been systematically denied the same privileges and powers that white people have been handed to throughout history.
Now, while we are on the subject of privilege, let me bring something very important up. Saying you have white privilege does not mean you do not have problems of your own. There are a variety of different privileges including race, socioeconomic status, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and age. Thus, you may be privileged in one area yet lack the privileges in others. However, when the people who vote on the Oscars consist of being 91% white and 76% male, you cannot deny the inevitable clouded judgments that will occur due to the lack of just representation.
The Oscars is only one example of the lack of representation for people of color within influential roles. Our current Congress was named by Pew Research as the most diverse Congress within history, and that's still consisting of 83% of white dominance, although white people only make up 62% of the total population. Policymakers and elected representatives are supposed to be recognizing and representing their citizenry but fail to do so when they make no attempts to understand the cultural complexities of the people they serve. It is not an attack against white people, it is a cry of desperation for consistently marginalized groups to be endowed the opportunity to rise to the same level of opportunity that whites are expected to be handed to.
Let's also talk about Leonardo DiCaprio and his climate change speech. At the most significant moment of his life, Leonardo DiCaprio decided to take the spotlight off himself and his own accomplishments to address the global issue of climate change. Yet that still was not enough for people, as it was immediately rebutted with Leonardo's multimillion dollar success as an actor and the frivolous things he has bought in return.
Yes, it is true that he is economically sound, but accusing him of not being environmentally active is not fair to the contributions he has made towards bettering our world. In July 2015, his foundation donated $15 million dollars to help support conversation projects through global grants. Since 2010, the Foundation has funded over 70 projects in 40 countries across the globe, working specifically with regional environmental degradation and putting a stop to the issue at hand. He is using his talents as an actor to create films that encourage the respect of nature, while partnering with Netflix to ensure that the films are accessible to as many people as possible.
His actions are significantly more than the top 1% of the US population holding the greatest shares of wealth on the country, as they invest their funds in stocks and keep their money in banks instead of donating to campaigns, spearheading advocacy efforts or supporting small businesses so the currency flows back into the economic system. What's more, his work equates to more than typing angry comments on a computer screen out of rage, desperation and the blatant ignorance of the environmental degradations that unchecked corporations cause.
Finally, let's talk about Joe Biden's speech on sexual assault on college campuses. Although it was a moving message, some people took to invalidating Biden's message with their own political agenda, saying that it was unnecessary to bring attention to a cause such as sexual assault.
As a college woman, I am insulted by the comments made against Joe Biden's speech or Lady Gaga's performance. Until you are a college woman who has to walk home to her dormitory afraid that she runs the risk of being attacked, you will not understand the value of the speech. Until you have to live every day in fear because of your wardrobe, personality, alcohol content or unconscious body language being taken advantage of, until you summon the courage to tell somebody only to be victim-blamed for it, or until you report a case to the frustrating result that the agency does not see value in pursuing investigation, you will not understand the importance of the speech.
While women are capable for speaking for themselves, we needed a male figure to penetrate the patriarchal bubble of invincibility that creates the dangerous and oppressive assumption that women ought to be victim-shamed. We needed a world leader to publicly acknowledge that that 1 in 5 women will face sexual assault within their college career, because for too long, it has been pushed to the side.
We have the power to make change, but it is not going to start without first being uncomfortable at the historic oppression that white privilege and imperialistic motives has created. It is time to look within ourselves to accept and fight for the diversification of all professions, to pass the microphone to marginalized communities, and to make something meaningful through our discomfort.