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Editorial: Will Chris Rock do the right thing?

Comedian Chris Rock on Monday speaks at an event celebrating the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in New York. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

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Should Chris Rock host the Oscars?

Either way, we have no doubt he will further the cause of racial progress in the film industry.

Rock is a brilliant and trenchant comedian. If he hosts the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 28, despite pressure to boycott the show because of a lack of diversity among this year’s nominees, you can be sure he will skewer the Academy all night long. The media coverage will be less about who won than about what Rock had to say about why others never got a chance to win.

He is already calling the Oscars “the White BET Awards.”

EDITORIAL

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From Lenny Bruce to Richard Pryor, our best comedians have been our best social commentators, beating down walls of injustice with scathing humor.

If Rock does boycott the Oscars, however, he will be following in a powerful time-honored tradition. A boycott integrated buses in Montgomery, Alabama. Boycotts helped end apartheid in South Africa.

Even the threat of a boycott has forced the hosts of the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to do some serious soul-searching. The Academy has vowed to revamp its rules and practices, beginning with its guidelines for voting membership, to produce an awards program that better reflects the diversity of excellence in Hollywood.

Nobody’s looking for quotas or formulas. That would be absurd. Nobody doubts the great number of fine actors of color. But when all 20 actors nominated for the top awards are white two years in a row, the Academy is failing badly to reflect that diversity. The numbers don’t lie.

The question for us is not whether Chris Rock should host this year’s Academy Awards, but whether we should watch.

An admirable statement or any empty gesture?

As Spike Lee, a leader of the Oscars boycott, has said in different ways in so many of his films, we are all challenged every day to decide and do “the right thing.”

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