Asian American artists and orgs object to ‘racist’ joke at Academy Awards

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Asian American nonprofits and actors have spoken out against a joke delivered at the 88th Academy Awards Feb. 28 that many have deemed racist.

Actor and comedian Chris Rock, who hosted the evening, invited three children of Asian descent on stage for a joke he made about China and Chinese sweatshops, in which he described the youth as “PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants.” The children remained silent during the joke.

Twenty-five members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences signed a joint letter dated March 9 to Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, CEO Dawn Hudson, members of the board of governors and Oscars producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill, The Hollywood Reporter reported. The letter noted that members had hoped the Academy would present “a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity. Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.” The letter, signed by former Academy board of governors Don Hall, Freida Lee Mock and Arthur Dong; Academy Award winners Ang Lee, Chris Tashima, Jessica Yu and Steven Okazaki and other Academy members, including George Takei and Renee Tajima-Peña, demanded the Academy show “how such tasteless and offensive skits could have happened and what process you have in place to preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts.”

Numerous news outlets reported that the Academy issued an apology March 15 that said, “The Academy appreciates the concerns stated, and regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive. We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive.”

OCA Policy and Communications Manager Kham Moua expressed her organization’s “concern with the racist jokes about Asians” uring the awards, she said in a letter to the Academy’s leader.

While the organization praised the Academy’s commitment to “double the number of diverse members by 2020,” which it announced in a statement issued Jan. 22, it said that Asian American and Pacific Islander actors have “traditionally been excluded from roles in major motion pictures to the point where even characters of Asian-descent are frequently cast as white actors …”

OCA issued an invitation to the Academy’s elders to meet to discuss “how to be more inclusive and respectful of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders going forward.”

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