Diversity Was the Real Star of the 2016 Oscars

PHOTO:Kerry Washington attends the 88th Annual Academy Awards, Feb. 28, 2016, in Hollywood, Calif. PlayJason Merritt/Getty Images
WATCH Chris Rock Tackles Race in 2016 Oscars Monologue

Besides who would win, the biggest question at this year's Oscars ceremony was how the show and its stars would handle the issue of diversity.

The conversation started on the red carpet with Kerry Washington, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and others chiming in.

This is the second year in a row of all-white acting nominees, prompting some, like Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, to boycott the awards show.

While she respects those who chose not to attend the ceremony Sunday night, Washington told ABC News' Robin Roberts that she "felt it was important to have my voice at the table."

The "Scandal" star, who joined the Academy three years ago, said that "as a new member," she wants "to be part of the conversation."

"If you look at the history of movements," she said, "a lot of voices are needed at the table," adding that her voice "is best used at the table."

Later, Louis Gossett Jr., who won an Oscar in 1982 for "An Officer and a Gentleman," chimed in about the diversity conversation.

"We're not going to get to the promised land until we regard one another as part of the same family," he said. "Black, Latino as one family. That's America."

Meanwhile, Boone Isaacs emphasized that the 7,000-member organization has been "having these discussions and pulling together initiatives for the last few years."

As a result, she said, "we were able to speak up at a time that was most important, and we are going to continue to take action and not just speak."

During the show, host Chris Rock addressed the "elephant in the room" right from the start with his opening monologue. Welcoming the crowd to the "White People's Choice Awards," Rock acknowledged that he was hosting the "wildest, craziest Oscars."

He joked that he thought about quitting, but "the last thing I need is to lose is another job to Kevin Hart."

On a more serious note, though, he said, "Is Hollywood racist? ... you're damn right," adding that it's a different type of racism. "Hollywood is sorority racist, we like you Rhonda, but you're not a Kappa," he said, drawing applause from the audience.

Later, Rock appeared in a hilarious skit with Whoopi Goldberg, Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan, spoofing some of this year's films while commenting on the lack of opportunities for black people in Hollywood.

But some in the audience seemed clueless about "Clueless" star Stacey Dash's brief appearance on stage following the skit.

Dash, a vocal Republican, quipped, "I cannot wait to help my people out. Happy Black History Month."

The actress later tweeted about her surprise appearance at the Oscars, explaining that she was "bringing diversity to Hollywood ... not merely because of color, but politics as well."

The jokes continued throughout the show, whether it was Rock saying after a commercial break, "We're black," or the "Black History Month Minute" skit, hosted by Angela Bassett honoring Jack Black, or Kevin Hart quipping that he should have gotten a front-row seat, or Sacha Baron Cohen as his alter ego Ali G lambasting the Academy for its lack of diverse nominations.

Appearing later on the show, Boone Isaacs took a serious moment to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when she said, "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

She added, "I am confident that together we can shape a future of which all of us can be proud."

A few of the winners also commented on diversity in their speeches, including Best Director winner for the second year in a row, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Leonardo DiCaprio.