By most accounts, Oscars host Chris Rock was off to a good start Sunday as he took on Hollywood’s race issue in his monologue, declaring “you’re damn right Hollywood is racist” and appealing to the industry to give black actors the same opportunities as their white counterparts.
And then, he introduced actor and controversial Fox pundit Stacey Dash to the stage as the Academy’s new director of “minority outreach program.”
The same Stacey Dash who called the #OscarsSoWhite boycott “ludicrous” and said there was no need for Black History Month.
“I cannot wait to help my people out. Happy Black History Month,” she giggled. “Thank you.”
Dash quickly exited the stage as silence fell over the audience, which was apparently unsure how to react.
Model Chrissy Teigen seemed to reflect what most people were thinking with a facial expression that spread across the Internet. Lest you have any doubt about what she was reacting to, her husband John Legend confirmed via Twitter that “she was cringing from the Stacey Dash moment.”
She was not alone. Across social media the appearance landed with a thud, leading many to call it the most awkward moment of the night. (In fairness, though, the Asian children playing “Price Waterhouse Cooper accountants” had not yet been called to the stage.)
The confusion is understandable. Dash has been a polarizing figure since she made the transition from beloved 1990s actor to conservative pundit known for taking controversial stances on issues affecting people of color.
Dash is best known for her role in the 1995 hit film “Clueless” as Alicia Silverstone’s stylish sidekick, Dionne. She reprised the role in a television series based on the movie from 1996 to 1999 and followed it up with small roles in film and television. But she was never quite able to replicate the success of her breakthrough role.
Then she endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, in a turnaround from her 2008 vote for President Obama. She was vilified by those who accused of her “switching lanes” to resuscitate her career. On the other hand, the endorsement drew the attention of Fox News, which hired her in 2014 to offer “cultural analysis and commentary.”
BET actress questions the need for BET
It was her appearance on seasons 3 and 4 of BET’s “The Game” that led critics to call her a hypocrite later, when she questioned the need for Black History Month or programs targeting the black community.
She made the comments on “Fox & Friends” in February during a discussion of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, which led celebrities including Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee to boycott the award show.
Dash called the boycott “ludicrous” and said it implied there was no need for Black History Month or the BET network.
“We have to make up our minds. Either we want to have segregation or integration, and if we don’t want segregation, then we have to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re black,” Dash said. “If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms. It’s a double standard.”
It’s not the first time Dash has expressed this point of view. In a November 2015 Patheos.com blog post, “Why Black History Month is Ridiculous and Why BET Should Not Exist,” Dash echoed remarks by Morgan Freeman on “60 Minutes” that it was “ridiculous” to “relegate my history to a month.”
“I don’t need a special month or special channel. What’s sad is that these insidious things only keep us segregated and invoke false narratives,” Dash wrote at the time.
She reiterated her position Sunday night in another blog post titled “Who is Stacey Dash and why did she just walk across the #Oscar stage?”
“We need to stop complaining about white people oppressing us, we shouldn’t boycott the Oscars, and we need to support Chris Rock the host,” she said.
She also took a crack at explaining that awkward moment.
“When they added ME to increase the diversity, I’m sure many black people rolled their eyes. I’m not ‘black enough,’ they say. But guess what? I’ve heard that all my life. I would rather be a free thinking, black than a cookie cutter black who thinks – and votes – just like all my friends,” she wrote.
“Yes, I’m the actress from the South Bronx who has always dreamed of winning an Oscar. But God has a great sense of humor and this is my first encounter with one of my dreams of destiny. Bringing diversity to Hollywood… not merely because of color, but politics as well. (After all, different colors of skin is an easy kind of diversity. Ideological diversity is much harder, because it forces everyone to come face to face with actual beliefs. Hollywood needs BOTH.)”