Why Chris Rock’s ‘Asian Joke’ at the Oscars Did Not Go Down Too Well

February 29, 2016 Updated: March 1, 2016

The Academy Awards this year were riven by accusations of racism, due to the absence of black nominees from many of the key awards. As a result, a number of high-profile African-American stars, including Will Smith, boycotted the event. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was widely used on Twitter.

This was why the joke by Chris Rock, the host, involving three Asian children was found so jarring on social media. Many thought that Asian-Americans, and Chinese-Americans, were the minority that had been left out of the debate.

Playing with a stereotype about Asians being good at math, Chris Rock welcomed onto the stage three Asian children as representatives of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the auditing and accounting firm.

They walked onto stage sheepishly in suits, clutching black briefcases.

Rock ended the joke with the remark: “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone, which was also made by these kids.”

Online writers jumped on the joke as an example of racism in an awards ceremony that suffered a great deal of controversy precisely because of allegations of racism—against black people.

As time of writing, there has been very little response on China’s social media. On Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, one user with the name Yang Yuzhi from the United States, expressed anger at how Rock “had made a fool of Asians as only able to do math, accounting, using child labor to make phones.” This “makes one furious,” the user wrote.

Jeremy Lin, the former Knicks phenom and currently plays for the Charlotte Hornet, wrote on his Facebook page “Seriously though, when is this going to change?!? Tired of it being ‘cool’ and ‘ok’ to bash Asians smh.” The post has gotten over 31,000 likes and 3,200 shares. 

Twitter users seemed to express similar frustrations. A sampling of tweets on the matter is below.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer