Chris Rock had stayed silent throughout the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, but the Academy Awards host wasted no time addressing the elephant in the room tonight.
"I'm here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the white People's Choice Awards," said Rock almost immediately after walking out on stage. "You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job. You would all be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now."
Rock devoted his entire monologue to the controversy, hitting the right balance between finding humor in an uncomfortable situation while not losing sight of its importance.
"You're damn right Hollywood is racist," Rock said, adding that the clubby nature of the Academy was "sorority racist" not "burning cross racist."
Rock's most politically charged barb came when he briefly touched on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, drawing the most nervous response from the crowd, which largely applauded throughout. "This year in the In Memoriam package, it's just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on the way to the movies."
In a more lighthearted moment, Rock said they should just have separate acting categories for minorities: "Just have black categories like Best Black Friend."
Rock also took aim at some in the African-American community, especially Jada Pinkett Smith, one of the stars boycotting the awards tonight. He implied Pinkett Smith was upset because her husband, Will Smith, wasn't nominated for his role in Concussion. "It's also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild Wild West," came the punch line.
Rock said he considered whether or not to boycott, but reasoned the show would go on with or without him as host. "They're not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit," he said, "and the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart."
Rock wondered why the call for diversity intensified so much this year, noting that this wasn't the first time minorities weren't nominated. "It's the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no-black-nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times," he said.
"You gotta figure it happened in the '50s and the '60s," Rock continued, adding that African Americans had more important issues to worry about then. "We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer."
In Rock's most poignant moment, he deftly touched on the importance of #OscarsSoWhite. "We want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That's it," he said. "And not just once."