But I could tell it was going to be a tense night when host Neil Patrick Harris made a joke about Oprah. He pointed out that the 8 films up for Best Picture grossed over $600 million. He then observed that American Sniper, all by itself, was responsible for over $300 million of that. He said, "To put it in perspective, everyone on this side of the theater is the 7 other nominees and American Sniper is Oprah." She seemed not to understand the comparison so, after a moment, Harris had to explain it to her. "Because you're rich." Oprah didn't like that one bit. Why? Because Oprah prefers to see herself as a victim. To her, I'm sure, it was all just part of the so-called Oscar snub of Selma.
Take John Legend, who won Best Song, for writing Glory with rapper Common for Selma. During his acceptance speech he made the insane comparison of murderers and rapists to slaves. He said, "There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850." Yeah, John, and over 90 percent of those murderers are locked up for killing black folks. He and others referred to "the struggle" and said it was far from over, which drew a standing ovation from Oprah. The struggle, Oprah? Really? You're the richest woman in the world and you're acting like you live in Selma in 1965.
Common added, "To whom much is given, much is required." Of course, he and John Legend will return to their gated homes to polish their Oscars but what are they really doing to keep all those black men out of jail other than complaining? What are they doing for the victims of black-on-black crime? How, pray tell, are these multi-millionaires somehow "down with the struggle?"
And this is just an aside but it needs to be pointed out. David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma was overcome with emotion as if he had any connection whatsoever to slavery or civil rights. His parents are Nigerian and he was raised in Oxford, England. There's absolutely no chance that his ancestors were slaves and none of his people ever went through "the struggle" in America. In fact, there's a much better chance that his ancestors were slave traders rather than slaves. Perhaps his tears were tears of guilt.
The low point came during Common's rap in the middle of Glory when he dared include Ferguson and "hands up" while rapping about Selma and the civil rights march. MLK, Jr. was a hero. Michael Brown was a thug. Did Dr. King strong-arm rob a convenience store just before leading a march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge? Did he reach inside a cop car and try to steal the gun of a police officer? This kind of thing simply sullies the image of the civil rights movement. Such comparisons can lead young people today to assume that the folks marching 50 years ago were just a bunch of criminals and they weren't. That was a real struggle. Burning down a town because a guy attacks a cop and gets killed is not.
There's nothing wrong with tugging at the heartstrings. There's nothing wrong with calling attention to a cause. The problem is going to the well too often. That's the way it felt with all the "woe-is-me" talk from folks who were obviously not missing any meals. Maybe that's the reason Selma didn't win Best Picture. Cry for Martin Luther King, Jr., cry for Rosa Parks, but don't cry for Oprah.