Dr. Boyce: Michael Wilbon, Seth McFarlane and Black People Hosting the Oscars


by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Discussing race on ESPN shows can be dangerous and get you fired.  But that doesn’t stop Michael Wilbon from saying what’s on his mind.  Wilbon discussed the recent Academy Awards on “The Tony Kornheiser Show” on ESPN 980 AM in Washington, D.C. this week.  As can sometimes happen with Mike, the conversation got pretty racial.

When Wilbon was asked about the Academy Awards and the host, Seth McFarlane, Wilbon stated that he doesn’t like McFarlane one bit.  In fact, he says that he was only selected to host the show because the academy is tired of black people.

“I don’t like him,” Wilbon said. “Why is he there? He’s not worthy of being there. They got tired of famous black people, so they got to get a white guy — affirmative action Academy Awards host? Is that what this is about? Really?”

Wilbon, who hosts the popular show “Pardon the Interruption” along with Kornheiser, gets the chance to chime in on race for a show that is built on racial differences between he and his white co-host.  But despite Wilbon’s insistence that black people have overwhelmed the Oscars, there have actually only between two black hosts in the last 12 years.  Chris Rock hosted the Oscars in 2005, and Whoopi Goldberg did the job in 2001.

“I don’t like MacFarlane,” Wilbon continued. “He is a joke. He is not worthy of the people that were up there last night.”

I like Mike Wilbon a lot, but I’m not sure what he has against McFarlane.   I honestly think that Seth is hilarious.   I love every single one of his cartoons, and I think he’s very funny in person.  But the thing about McFarlane is that if you’re easily offended, he’s NOT your guy.

I thought Seth did a good job at the Oscars, but I also think that the Oscars was not his venue.  My perception of the Oscars is that it is a bit pompus, racist and filled with people making decisions that don’t connect with the American people.  In other words, it’s not much different from Congress.  Seth was not the right host for the Oscars, but if they were seeking to rid themselves of stuffiness, then their outreach to Seth actually makes sense.  In other words, they benefit much more from Seth’s presence than Seth benefits himself.

I don’t watch the Oscars, even when black people are hosting the show.  Academy Awards mean about as much to me as parking tickets, and I have no idea why black entertainers value these awards so much.  Well, there is one reason the awards are valuable:  Acceptance in the white acting community can lead to a slew of economic opportunities for those who’ve been selected.  Beyond that, an Oscar practically worthless.

I admittedly find it interesting that Wilbon can say what he wants about race (as can Stephen A. Smith), but Rob Parker was fired by ESPN for making reasonable remarks about race just a few weeks ago.  It seems that there is an odd thing happening at ESPN, where racial conversations are welcome (since a lot of out-of-work black men watch their show, “First Take”), as long as they don’t cross certain boundaries.  But the problem is that it’s difficult to see where those boundaries lie, which can leave people confused.   Rob Parker’s remarks, while they weren’t as articulate as he might have wanted, were quite reasonable.  But they did seem to reflect a kind of intra-racial subtlety that most white people would never understand.  The truth is that I too openly wonder if Robert Griffin III (aka RG III) is  “cornball brother” (as Parker did before he was fired).  The difference is that ESPN can’t banish me for asking that question out loud.

The bottom line here, whether we’re talking about discriminatory behavior at the Academy Awards or racial size ups at ESPN, is that black people need to own our own stuff.  When we own the platforms, we define the conversation.  We choose who gets the awards.  We get to know what it’s like to live a life where the majority of our time is NOT spent complaining about decisions being made by white people.  This would allow Rob Parker to have true freedom of speech and for Michael Wilbon to see his people celebrated in a way that he can appreciate.

You can’t be truly free when you’re living under somebody else’s roof.  We must re-embrace the idea of black institution-building.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money: How Black Power Can Thrive in a Capitalist Society.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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  1. Seth MacFarland was not a good host of the Oscars.
    Not to say he isn’t funny. Because he is. But the
    Oscars was not the venue for him. The show was boring
    and slow. Seth is very handsome and can sing. His jokes
    were tired and unappreciated. The Oscars are a joke
    and the most beautifully dressed women on the show were
    the actresses of color: Halle Berry, Kerry Washington,
    Zoe Saldana, Octavia Spencer. And Shirley Massey and
    Jennifer Hudson performances were amazing. In addition,
    Barbra Streisand’s silky smooth voice still sounds great.
    Adele’s performance was magnificient. Other than that
    the Oscar’s sucked. Happy for Ben Affleck.

  2. I
    I love family guy. The thing with Seth is that he takes shots at everyone. Blacks, whites, jews, christianity, muslims, handicapped etc. He talks about everyone. Like Dr. Boyce said if you aare easily offended, he is not for you.

  3. Seth (Good ol’ boy) McFarlane was miserable. He reminds you of a schoolyard bully. Yuck! The way Family Guy disrespects Christianity is a complete disgrace.

  4. First of all IAM not trying to defend Mike’s comment or the reason he said it,but if you watch his show you have to know that these two guys go at it each and every day, and very rarely agree on anything, for which IAM sure is part of the Program,as a matter of fact he ends his show by calling everyone who watches Knuckleheads, this is just Mike,do not get caught up in the Hype..

  5. Mr. Perot, you are right on target. Seth McFarlane, was quite good I would say. Much better than the two blacks who hosted the sho in 3001, and 2005. But you know what it work for them. Whoopie Goldberg, is now Barbara Walters chamber maid on the view.
    We are still in slavery, look at what Obama, is doing in Africa to black people. You must becareful the master you serve. The bible said the Egyptians had inslaved the Jews, well look what they have done to us and keep doing and we cannot complain because we still are inslaved by them.And you better not say a word or you will be considered ANTI SEMATOC. Just eat the BS and smile and be HAPPY.

  6. Black people need to stop getting so upset when white racist don’t invite you to their parties. This is mainly about black entertainers exclusion. Black entertainers IMO that have shown black people as little respect as whites in that industry.

    I didn’t watch this show and have no interest in it. The choice of Chris Rock as host in 2005 was solely base on his willingness to call black people a n*gg*r on demand. IMHO that’s pretty much Chris Rock’s and a lot of black entertainers crossover appeal with whites and they are rewarded for it. His hosting the Oscars was his reward.

    I have no issue with this guy Seth Mcfarland. I read about his joke about Jews controlling Hollywood. IMO that took balls to say that in Hollywood, joke or not. That’s an example that he’s a equal opportunity offender when it comes to humor.

  7. I like you, Mr. Perot. We’re on the same page. Finally, someone on here can offer some meaningful commentary.