Why Chris Rock’s awkward Stacey Dash joke was actually brilliant

It’s the morning after and Chris Rock is already being praised for his pull-no-punches monologue, during which he skewered the Academy and Hollywood-at-large for failing to promote racial diversity. But interestingly enough, crickets were heard after one of his most clever and cutting jokes of the night.

When Stacey Dash was sarcastically trotted out as the “new director” of the Academy’s “minority outreach program,” everyone in the audience seemed clueless, including the actress herself.

Courtesy of NBC News, here’s a snippet of the blog post she published after her appearance: “When they added ME to increase the diversity, I’m sure many black people rolled their eyes. I’m not ‘black enough,’ they say. But guess what? I’ve heard that all my life. I would rather be a free thinking black than a cookie cutter black who thinks — and votes — just like all my friends.”

Though it fell flat, Rock’s joke was that the Academy is so out of touch with black culture that it would put Dash front and center in an effort to mitigate the diversity controversy, even though her views run contrary to those of the majority of the black community. The fact that no one seemed to get the joke actually made it even funnier, since it seemed to prove the underlying premise.

In reality, Dash has actually been very outspoken against the idea of the Oscars boycott and went so far as to call it “ludicrous” during a Fox & Friends appearance last month. Later in the interview, she decried both BET (Black Entertainment Television) and Black History Month for setting a double standard and promoting segregation, rather than integration.

You can debate those views on their own merits but, if you’re looking to issue a public mea culpa for the lack of diversity at your awards show, she’s probably not an ideal ambassador.

To its credit, the Academy has been publicly contrite since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy came to the fore, but we’ll have to wait and see if Hollywood’s most prestigious awards show (and Hollywood itself) will actually take steps to be more inclusive in the future.

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