Despite being ostracized by members of the Black community for statements she made preceding the Oscars, Chris Rock introduced Stacey Dash, the actress most famed for her role as Dionne in the 1995 movie “Clueless,” as the “new director” of the Oscars’ “Minority Outreach Program.” Dash proceeded to take the stage stating, “I cannot wait to help my people out. Happy Black History Month!”
For those who are confused on why this joke received so much flak, Dash had previously criticized the BET network and Black History Month while on the TV program “Fox & Friends” by saying, “we have to make up our minds. Either we want to have segregation or integration. If we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the [NAACP] Image Awards, where you are only awarded if you are Black. If it were the other way around we would be up in arms. It’s a double standard. Just like there shouldn’t be a Black History Month.”
Of course Dash is entitled to her own opinion. However, the issue of race seems to have clouded the real issue that brought Black History Month, the BET Awards and channels like BET into existence — the issue of inclusion.
Black history month is a time of year to recognize black history in depth beyond slavery and post slavery in relation to America’s beginning. In a nation appealing to the eurocentric perspective year around, black history month allows blacks a time to be included into history through an afrocentric perspective.
This year the Academy Awards had an issue with diversity, coined on social media with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. This controversy amounted to the very reason Dash was on this stage delivering her joke–a comedic relief aimed at dissolving tensions that completely misfired. The very fact that #OscarsSoWhite became such a large issue is an obvious and perfect example of why distinct black entertainment is important.
Furthermore, the award show failed to nominate any people of color, although there were numerous black actors with outstanding performances this year. The issue of diversity within nominations caused famous actors such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and many more to boycott the Oscars. Distinct black entertainment ensures blacks recognition for hard work, something eurocentric platforms cannot guarantee. By saying these things should no longer exist, Dash is insinuating that the issue of Black inclusion within the media no longer exists.
I find it ironic that in the year the academy is being attacked for its lack of effort to recognize the performances by actors of color, a colored woman against distinct black entertainment is invited to make a statement that contradicts her eurocentric values. In fact, Dash has not acted in an Oscars worthy production yet she was invited to come on stage and speak. With that background in mind, why would the Academy Awards allow Stacey Dash to make this statement? In doing so, they refocused some of the criticism from #OscarsSoWhite to Stacey Dash and her disruptive statements pertaining to the inclusion of members of the black community.
Dash herself stated on her blog that the Academy invited her “to increase the diversity.” However, messages are encoded into programs to benefit the program itself. Lending an invitation to one black woman in the absence of numerous relevant black actors is not a huge increase in audience demographic, however I believe it was a strategic move in programming .
What better way to take the weight of the the black communities concerns of diversity off of your production then to refocus their concerns on a black woman who’s eurocentric values have isolated her from her community?
As a consumer of media research is an important factor in viewing programs as an active audience member. Having a well versed perspective when consuming media allows your perspective on issues within programs to not be easily formed by the programmer. I am not justifying Dash being insensitive to the black community, however I want to shine a light on how she was used as a puppet to refocus viewers from thinking #OscarsSoWhite to #OscarsSoStacey.