Chris Rock, the Oscars and a lesson for the Liberal Democrats

An Oscar. Photo CC BY 2.0 courtesy of Davidlohr Bueso

Chris Rock’s opening monologue for the Oscars, was in parts funny, poignant, controversial and blunt. One section in particular made me think of the debates over discrimination in political parties and what measures should be taken to move away from the dominant model of politician equals white, straight, middle class man. It was this section:

The real question everybody wants to know, everybody wants to know in the world is: Is Hollywood racist? Is Hollywood racist?

You know, that’s a…you gotta go at that at the right way.

Is it burning-cross racist? No.

Is it fetch-me-some-lemonade racist? No. No, no, no.

It’s a different type of racist. Now, I remember one night I was at a fund-raiser for President Obama. A lot of you were there. And, you know, it’s me and all of Hollywood.

And it’s all of us there. And it’s about four black people there: me, uh, let’s see, Quincy Jones, Russell Simmons, Questlove. You know, the usual suspects, right? And every black actor that wasn’t working.

Needless, to say Kev Hart was not there. O.K.? So, at some point you get to take a picture with the president, and, you know as they’re setting up the picture you get a little moment with the president.

I’m like, “Mr. President, you see all these writers and producers and actors? They don’t hire black people, and they’re the nicest, white people on earth! They’re liberals! Cheese!”

That’s right. Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. But it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to.

Hollywood is sorority racist.

It’s like, “We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”

That’s how Hollywood is.

The context and the issues are very different between Hollywood and the Liberal Democrats. But there are some common themes and one is about that sorority-based discrimination, the in-crowd who tell you they don’t look down on the out-crowd but somehow never quite fully let them in.


That is a very good description of unconscious and largely indirect discrimination. The same sort of thing works against working-class people.

But I found when I had some responsibility for these issues in the London Liberal Party (pre-merger, of course) that mentioning race made our members uncomfortable. Talk about overcoming discrimination of all sorts, and they talk about wheelchairs. May have changed a bit, but in many places my guess is, not much.

John Barrett
John Barrett

How true. 

Having been at the heart of the party at Westminster for many years, it may not be racist, but there has always been an in-crowd who behave in exactly the same way.

Sadly there is little hope for change, as many of those who are 'out', would rather be 'in', than change anything.  

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