Billy Crystal Wins Best Racist at Oscars 2012


Written by Cheryl Contee, Jack & Jill Politics

Despite my best instincts, I ended up watching most of the Oscars last night. People around the world watch the Oscars – it’s a big deal and one of our major cultural exports to the global consciousness.

So it was disappointing and infuriating to see so much unnecessary racism on display in the interest of oblivious jokes that highlighted how out of touch Hollywood celebrities are. If you’re following me on Twitter, you probably saw a few of my reactions in real-time. Here’s a more in-depth summary of Crystal’s compelling performance as Best Racist in An Academy Award Show.

First, in the opening video montage, we were treated to a skit based on the movie Midnight in Paris where Justin Bieber interacts with a Billy Crystal in blackface playing Sammy Davis Jr. For no reason? Why did this have to happen? I was willing to let that one go as ill-advised, old-mannish & clumsy and then…

Octavia Spencer wins Best Supporting Actress for her performance as an oppressed black maid in the South. Good for her, I guess, but will one of us ever win an Oscar for a portrayal of someone other than a minstrel, child-abusing welfare recipient, servant or a criminal? I’m just asking the question: is it possible? Will I live to see it? Unclear at this point. According to theGrio:

Her brash character holds a personal connection: “The Help” author Kathryn Stockett based some of the woman’s traits on Spencer, whom she met through childhood pal Tate Taylor, the director of the film.

Short pause for eyeroll. Anyway. I was just coping with my mixed feelings about that win when Billy Crystal says something about how after he saw the Help, he “wanted to hug a black woman” but would have to drive 45 min from Beverly Hills to find one! Ha Ha Ha! (are you laughing yet?)

So that was bruising. But Oscar wasn’t finished showcasing America’s racial blindspot to the entire world. In a video skit about a focus group watching a test screening, it’s announced that Gone With The Wind is next up. Someone then excitedly says “I hope it has monkeys in it!” Wow. That one was like a sucker punch and a backslap all in one.

At some point (I missed it), Crystal also said:

One of the most-talked performances of year has got to be Octavia Spencer’s in “The Help.” Not only is she a great actress, but she’s incredibly gracious. If she doesn’t win, she’s promised to leave the show early to help make pastries at the Governor’s Ball.

Hmmm. The coup de grace was when “Undefeated” won best documentary feature (it’s about – sigh – high school football and produced in part by P.Diddy), making it the first ever win for a black director for a full-length film of any kind. T.J. Martin was co-director and despite the historic nature of the moment, his white co-director hogged the spotlight. When T.J. finally spoke, he dropped the F-bomb, didn’t say anything to encourage other black directors AND got his mic turned off by the Academy. (He has since sort of apologized for cursing on stage.) Photo of Undefeated winners is above, fyi.

Should we laugh? Cry? Protest? What will it take for Hollywood to get a clue? That said, I enjoyed Crystal’s slams of the Republican candidates and other political digs that were spot-on such as:

One of the biggest stories of the year has to be the success of “The Artist.” Such an unlikely Oscar contender. No big stars, no color, no dialogue and looks like it’s a hundred years old. It’s like watching this year’s Republican primary.

and in introducing Christian Bale:

“a dark knight, an American psycho, a charismatic crackhead: you’ll choose one on Super Tuesday!”


Iran has an entry in the foreign language film category. “A Separation” deals with issues like divorce, child custody, domestic violence and manslaughter. Iranian President Ahmadinejad described it as “the best comedy of the year.”


There’s Meryl Streep, who celebrates her record 17th nomination for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” It’s funny, when she was offered the role of the toughest skirt in 1980’s Britain, she thought she was being asked to play Boy George.

Ding! Shows we’re not all living back in the 19th or 20th centuries here in the U.S. Anyway, that’s my take. I was waiting for some black folks in the audience to shake their heads with disapproval but apparently that was only happening at home on the couch and on tha Twitter. What did you think of the Oscars (aside from Sacha Baron Cohen’s urn and JLo’s nip slip?

This post was originally published by Jack & Jill Politics.


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AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill


Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

Yeah Annmarie, you're right! Where are the women? heres one! Queen Latifah! She does it all, her films are good and she's a great musician. In every movie Beyonce steals the scene without even trying, the best pop artist the world has EVER seen, everything she does is of the highest standard. I know there's more but believe there's a more sinister reason for their lack of prominence. Jennifer Hudson! She won a Oscar too I believe, for Dreamgirls. I wish I knew more contemporary artists, Whitney Houston! I know I've missed some...

MarĂ­a D'Oporto
Past Member 5 years ago

Actors should be more councious about others feelings

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

Will R. Where are the black female artists, actresses and directors?

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

Why do euro-Americans think that black oppression is a nice subject? You can bet blacks are squirming in their seats every time this is rammed down their throat at every opportunity, and then to be awarded honours for such roles, and only in white films! The best actors and entertainers in America are black! Will Smith for example. No 1 Rapper/musician, TV star (fresh prince) and film star. There is no bigger entertainer in the World as popular and as talented as him. Jamie Foxx, no1 comedian, piano player, singer and actor, as is Ice cube, ll cool j, martin Lawrence, even IceT, all proven multi talents, they may not get the accolades but they have the worlds hearts (the worlds, not the US!) Not since the days of Elvis and Frank Sinatra have any white stars had comparative talent to the black talent over there, if it wasn't because of the black talent creating the arts of Blues, Jazz, Rocknroll, R&B, Hip Hop etc, America would have been largely ignored by the rest of the world. To everyone else on the planet the best thing about America is its blacks, and we congratulate and respect you for making the decision to choose your leader out of your brightest ranks.
Here in England we also admire the resilience and fortitude of our blacks in the face of our opposition towards them, but our stiff upper lips and our propensity for institutional racism also stops us from being truthful.

Lynn D.
Lynn D5 years ago

Bless him for using his American's Freedom of Speech!!!!!

Mila D.
Mila D.5 years ago

Welll... Maybe not watching any Oscar ceremonies would be a good idea, to save time for something that can really make us feel happy is a better idea? Obviously, it's not an event when one can have a hearty laugh over well-written, sophisticated jokes...

Nessie Benjamin
Nessie B5 years ago

Thanks for posting ...

Katia Murillo
Patricia Murillo5 years ago

So… Deborah… just for the record: White women’s hair come in all sort of colors, so a color change won’t mean acquiring a trait from another race. And of course white women can feel uncomfortable and confused in many ways, so your comment is pointless again. You think that if the author modifies her appearance in order to acquire a Northern European trait it is perfectly fine (and I agree with that as long as she does not critize people from other ethnicities for doing the same). But if a Jewish performer does the same for an impersonation on a skit is a big, reprehensible sin? Why?

I happened to comment the Billy Crystal article with one of my black friends (a graduate student), and according to him, the author is diverting the attention from the real racism issues his community faces. He considers what she does as reversed racism, since she thinks that members from one minority –hers-- own the right to mention in any way all ethnicities, and that trying to establish double standards in silly things like that is not helping to advance their real agenda.

Well, I’m sure you are happier with Seth MacFarlane’s comments on Jews, Latinos and women during the last Oscar ceremony. Because those are minorities that don’t really count, right?

shell Nell

Ridiculous &they wonder why they don't have a younger,diverse audience!

Deborah S.
Deborah S5 years ago

I almost skipped over reading this article because I do not watch television and did not see the Oscars. However, I did want to see what Billy Crystal did that was considered racist. (And I agree with the writer -- those jokes and skits sound very dubious at best.)

However, what bothered me more was the comment by one of Care2's own members. I cannot believe I actually just read THIS racist comment (from Katia M.)...

"Well, I just googled Cheryl Contee, and saw her pictures. Then I understood. She dyes her hair....blond!! I see she is not only paranoid, but also confused, unhappy and uncomfortable being a black woman."

So... Katia M.... White women can dye their hair any color they want and that is okay, but when a black woman chooses to have blonde hair, she is "confused and uncomfortable" with her race?!

Whoa! You get the racist award today!