Jimmy Kimmel had a few funny zingers throughout his Oscars hosting gig. There was the bit where he tweeted at Donald Trump, and some ha-ha moments when he made snacks rain down on the audience. But overall, many of the late night personality's jokes landed with a thud — especially because more than a few of them were at the expense of people of colour.
Most glaringly was that moment where he lifted the adorable eight-year-old star of Lion, Sunny Pawar, in the air to recreate The Lion King. A rich white man lifting up a brown child — one of few to ever make their way inside the Academy Awards show — in a nod to a movie set in Africa? Not the best idea, Jimmy.
Perhaps less noticeable but even more offensive was a consistent narrative throughout the night: Kimmel's tendency to either botch the non-typical names of the minorities in attendance, or his tendency to straight up make fun of them.
When he met an Asian woman — one of the tourists involved in the-tour-bus-skit-that-didn't-quite-work — and she told him her name was "Yulerie," Kimmel looked so dumbfounded that she had to clarify that it's pronounced Yulerie, which rhymes with "jewellery." After, when Kimmel asked another one of the tourists their name and they said, "Patrick," Kimmel quipped, "Now that's a name." Um, what? So it's acceptable in front of millions of viewers to tell a woman of colour that her name isn't as good as a more American-sounding man's name? Not cool, Jimmy.
That wasn't it, though. After Muslim actor Mahershala Ali accepted his award for Best Supporting Actor and thanked his wife for giving birth to their daughter just four days earlier, Kimmel took the opportunity to take another jab, this time asking what Ali decided to name his daughter. After all, it can't be something "normal," like "Amy," he joked. Yes, joked. To the first ever Black Muslim Oscar winner — who had just tearfully shared with the world his joy over both the Oscar honour and being a proud new dad.
Of course, it doesn't seem like Kimmel is the type of guy that would purposely try to offend people on a major stage like the Academy Awards. But that's part of the problem: Many people don't stop to think about how their microaggressions toward people of colour can wear them down over time. In addition to constantly being reminded of their "otherness" for simply being born with different skin, these men and women have likely already dealt with a lifetime of unnecessary teasing or questioning because of their unique names.
Mahershala Ali is now an Oscar-winning actor. A white man teasing a Black Muslim man about his name on a national televised award show does not set a great example for the rest of America — especially right now. And particularly when you kicked off the show with a message about bringing the country together.
We weren't alone. Twitter took issue with Kimmel's insensitive behaviour in the name of humour, as well:
While we went in to the Oscars with high hopes for Kimmel, we were disappointed that he didn't pay more attention to sensitivity and inclusivity on a night like this. Yes, hosting the Oscars is a tough gig that's almost certain to earn criticism and backlash. But when you're given such a large platform, there's a responsibility that comes with it, and Kimmel failed to take that responsibility seriously. Here's hoping that after tonight, he'll learn his lesson for both his personal life, and his show.
Meanwhile, perhaps in the future, it might be best all around for the Oscars to skip having a host all together?