March 28, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 9, 2016) — OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates condemns the racist jokes about Asians at the Academy Awards.

This year at the Academy Awards, Comedian Chris Rock made racist jokes that used three Asian children as props. He described the children as “hardworking” accountants in an obvious reference to the stereotype that all Asians are diligent and good at math. He then took the distasteful gag one step further by telling the audience, “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids,” in another obvious reference to child labor used in Asia. Further along in the program, Asians were again the butt of a bad joke when Sacha Baron Cohen made a joke about “yellow people with tiny dongs”, in an apparent reference to Asian genital stereotypes.

In response, OCA sent a letter to Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs calling upon the Academy to recognize the error of allowing these racist jokes and insensitivities towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. OCA also extended an invitation to meet with the leadership of the Academy to discuss how to be more inclusive and respectful of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders going forward.

Below is an excerpt from the letter:

“First of all, we applaud your willingness to engage about the topics of diversity and inclusion in the Academy and are glad that you have aimed to double the number of diverse members by 2020. 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, a tradition that sadly continues today. Approaching this problem head on is not an easy task, but a necessary one so that stories we tell reflect our increasingly diverse country.

However, it is because of this history of exclusion and silencing of Asian American and Pacific Islander voices that the racist jokes from this year’s awards ceremony were so shocking. These comedians were supposed to present a clever and funny criticism of Hollywood’s real lack of diversity, but making tasteless genital jokes, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and poking fun at child labor is neither clever nor funny. It is extremely disappointing that the Academy would use its stature, social influence, and captive audience at this crucial juncture in race relations to fall back on racist jokes. It is also ironic that they would use this opportunity to engage with the topic of diversity while also simultaneously diminishing another community of color. People of color are now 40 percent of the nation’s population, and we must stand together to change a media that still prefers white people 2 to 1 in lead roles in movies and 6 to 1 in broadcast TV leads.”

To view the full letter click here.

OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, is a national organization of community advocates dedicated to improving the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs).

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