LOS ANGELES (AP) — In the opening moments of the Oscars, a time that in more normal years is filled with monologue jokes and lighthearted musical moments, Regina King spoke of suffering and racial injustice. She was one of several people during Sunday’s telecast who made it clear this was not a normal year.
“We are mourning the loss of so many, and I have to be honest, if things had gone differently this past week in Minneapolis, I might have traded in my heels for marching boots,” the Oscar-winning actor and “One Night in Miami” director said in her role as de facto host to open the show.
In addition to her reaction to the guilty verdict at Derek Chauvin’s trial in the killing of George Floyd, King noted the personal effect recent news cycles have had on her.
“Now, I know that a lot of you people at home want to reach for your remote when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you,” she said. “But as a mother of a black son, I know the fear that so many live with and no amount of fame or fortune changes that.”
Tyler Perry used his speech accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to decry racial hatred and encourage healing.
“My mother taught me to refuse hate,” the actor and director said. “She taught me to refuse blanket judgment.”
Travon Free, co-director of live action short winner “Two Distant Strangers,” about a young Black man forced to repeatedly relive a deadly encounter with a police officer, wore a suit jacket lined with the names of real people killed by police.
“Those people happen to disproportionately be Black people,” Free said.
He added, “James Baldwin once said the most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain. So I just ask that you please not be indifferent. Please don’t be indifferent to our pain.”
He said backstage that the film’s nomination and victory is itself a possible sign of progress.
“It’s amazing that we could be here today holding Oscars for a film about police brutality,” Free said. “It’s incredible.”
The year’s nominees as a whole were cited as a sign of racial progress in the run-up to the show, six years after a constant lack of minority nominees prompted the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag on social media.
Nine of the 20 nominees in the acting categories were people of color. Though after wins by Daniel Kaluuya as best supporting actor and Yuh-Jung Youn as best supporting actress, white actors — Frances McDormand and Anthony Hopkins — won best actress and best actor. Black actors Viola Davis and especially the late Chadwick Boseman had been expected to win.