In the long and laborious fight against racial inequalities in the entertainment industry, Asian groups often get the short shrift. A new report from Variety notes a letter penned by Ang Lee and a host of other Asian Oscar winners from the documentary, short-form, and technical branches expressing frustration with the “racist stereotypes” on display in the Oscar telecast two weeks ago and demand for the Academy to be more respectful moving forward.
The letter carefully articulated the signees’ disappointment with the organization:
“We are writing as Academy members of Asian descent to express our complete surprise and disappointment with the targeting of Asians at the 88th Oscars telecast and its perpetuation of racist stereotypes. In light of criticism over #OscarsSoWhite, we were hopeful that the telecast would provide the Academy a way forward and the chance to present a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity. Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.
“We’d like to know 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. We look forward to hearing from you about this matter and about the concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect.”
Though the letter does not make specific references, readers can safely assume the signees are referring to a bit from Chris Rock in which he introduced the Oscar accountants charged with tabulating the votes, only for pint-size Asian children to walk out, playing into stereotypes of Asian youths as super-powered math machines. It’s particularly galling that the Academy would draw on such antiquated tropes during a ceremony specifically organized around diversity and inclusion, amidst all the embarrassment over the blindingly white slate of nominees. It’s another gaffe in a long line of gaffes for the embattled organization, and the Asian entertainment community apparently has no intention of taking it lying down.