I’m not watching the Oscars tonight – not because I am making some grand statement. I am going to the Prince concert, but I would not have watched anyway. My mouth still has a bad taste in it from learning about the real diversity problem in Hollywood, so I don’t think that anything that the Academy could serve up tonight would be all that tasty.
Although I won’t be watching, the Oscars have been on my mind today. Well, the Oscars haven’t been on my mind, but the show’s host, Chris Rock, has. I’ve been praying for him—seriously praying for him (I don’t know if I’ve ever done that for a celebrity or public figure other than President Obama).
Chris Rock is walking the proverbial tightrope that Black Americans walk daily. He has to be the voice of all minorities, who have not been given equal opportunities in Hollywood; but he must deliver the message in such a way that White people will receive it or at least won’t be offended or feel persecuted at a minimum.
There are many who are counting on him to be the Muhammad Ali of TV Hosts and deliver a knockout punch to bigots and studio executives with intelligence, grace, and a bit of defiant arrogance. There are others, probably like Chris’s publicist, who want him to be gentle enough that the celebrities of the night do not feel as if their night has been over-shadowed; the White people watching don’t squirm and start complaining about his “racist monologue”; and Chris can get hired again. We ALL know that if he goes too hard that Hollywood will shut the door tightly—not allowing him to make another A-list appearance again. If his message is too soft, Black people will immediately put him on a Ben Carson Black People’s Coalition Long-term Suspension.
Is there a win-win in this situation or is Chris destined to fail – somebody?
Don’t’ we, Black Americans, walk this tightrope all the time—though on a less public stage? Aren’t we trying to be “down”, while trying to move up? Don’t we try to let our Black employees and colleagues know that we are “down” by advocating for diversity issues, trying to hire or promote other minorities; or making a stand against racist policies – all while trying to not be so “Black” that your White superiors, colleagues and customers feel alienated?
But when we do it, we have 5-10 co-workers paying attention. Tonight, Chris will have tens of millions. So, I’ll continue to pray for the brother. “Lord, give him perfect balance as he walks this thin tightrope. Let him make it across successfully. But if he should fall, let him fall gently and without real injury, so that he can get back up on the next tightrope that will surely be coming his way.