Last night at the Academy Awards (the Oscars) Will Smith’s temper stole got the best of him and stole the show. What happened? Well he slapped Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife. Of course today there are tons of video clips and commentary about it. But I will share the one of the recaps given by the Breakfast Club:
So here we have another pop cultural event where a famous Black person made a blunder in a very public way. And there is a wide range of responses; with distinct differences coming from different camps (which I will highlight throughout this post). But in a nutshell; my opinion is that Will was more right than he was wrong. And the attention and outrage that this is creating feels too much like people swinging around a two-edged sword with disregard of Black women on one side, and the emasculation of Black men on the other.
So here are my reason as to why I am giving Will a pass on this:
#1 – Will Smith is a Human Being
None of us know what others are going through. Even though I see Will’s perspective, there is a chance that he was totally ignorant of Jada’s condition. Either way, both Will and Chris are human and humans make mistakes. They also overreact. They also are subject to their behavior being influenced by hormones, chemical imbalances, mind altering substances and peer pressure. And we are also products of our environment.
Both Chris and Will came of age as Black men in lower working class families in urban areas (Chris in Brooklyn, Will in Philadelphia). Although I have never been rich and famous myself, my guess is that there isn’t some magic wand that just erases your formative years whenever you cross across the desert sands into the promised land of success. American society emasculates men in relation to larger society on the economic and social front. Therefore, they tend to overcompensate their masculinity with over the top reactions to life. Is this problematic and toxic? Yes, it is. But this is akin to breeding and training dogs to be mean, and then acting surprised when they bite. Yes, Black people are not animals — I don’t mean to imply that. But what I am saying is that even the best humans can be conditioned and can become negatively influenced by their environment. And this psychological damage can run very deep and be very profound….like a cancer.
Will Smith has been a bit more open and vulnerable, and made himself more accessible than most Black celebrities. This has worked – due to his funny guy personality type. But it also adds on a lot of pressure.
I don’t look at any celebrity with the assumption that I know them. The only thing that I know about Will is that he is a human being, that he is Black, and that he is a man. I have no interest in punishing him or cancelling him. Like anything I think or do is going to make a difference to him anyway. And yet, you have people out there saying this:
Wow. Talk about calling the kettle black. Apologies if Will Smith, who you thought was a ‘well trained negro’ had the nerve to make a mistake and get out of line. Ok — just throw him in jail. And allow Kyle Rittenhouse to walk around free, living his best life!
.@willsmith Apologize to @chrisrock you abusive pos. What a fucking example for kids, stay out of the public if you don’t want publicity, good or bad. Control yourself, u ruined it for all after. There must be consequences for you, he should file charges. Maybe few days in jail.
— MTG 🌊 🇺🇸 💙 (@mtgpower) March 28, 2022
#2 – You Don’t Joke About Black Women’s Hair
I don’t watch TV or follow celebrities (unless they are trending on Twitter) so I also had no idea that Jada had alopecia. But she has talked about this publicly. The video below was done 3 years ago. Ironically the two White male hosts of the show remarked about the very sensitive nature of hair loss in women:
Chris Rock is a Black man who made an entire documentary on the stigmas that Black women face in regards to their hair. He really should have known better. Or maybe he felt like he could push the envelope since the butt of the joke were ‘his people’. Either way, he had a serious lack in judgement.
Also, Black Women in general have been disrespected and disregarded for far too long. This fact isn’t going unnoticed either:
So true! It is amazing to see someone stand up for Black women. It may have been messy and thuggish – but it still woefully needed to be done.
— Aurelie (@Aurelie_Sem) March 28, 2022
#3 – The Pearl Clutching is Hella Hypocritical
I am really bemused at this idea that ‘violence is not the answer’ and ‘Will Smith could have handled that another way’. And then there are those who want to cancel and pass judgement and play armchair therapist over this event. Exhibit B:
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I’m not sure what kind of world people live in where the people do not make mistakes. Also, this is America. A country that was founded on violence. Hypocrisy is more American than Apple Pie! I mean the Declaration of Independence was penned by White men who owned slaves. Fast forward to today – the highest grossing motion pictures are superhero films where we get to watch fictional characters beat each other to within an inch of their lives. Also plenty of rich and powerful mean do far worse in private. But that’s ok to allow to go on for decades. Until the skeletons overflow and fall out of the closet and then it is impossible to hide.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. But we live in a society where police officers are kneeling on the necks of innocent men until they die. And this is what we chose to be outraged about?
#4 – It Could Have Been Worse
As far a physical altercations go, this was pretty mild. Will Smith smacked Chris with an open hand (it wasn’t a punch). He walked away (and hat tip to Chris because it seems like the idea of retaliating crossed his mind, but he refrained). Will later apologized (albeit not to Chris) and Chris decided to not press any charges. End of story (it should be anyway).
#5 – The Oscars Are Trash Anyway
The sentiments throughout the Black community about what happened are pretty mixed. But generally, Black women (including me) seem to support Will Smith; Black men seem to have a wider variety of opinions. But in the Black community, there is also an interesting discussion goin on as to whether or not Will’s actions make the Black community look bad on a very public, global stage.
My response to that: welp, the Oscars have been doing that for decades all on their own!
Perhaps this can become an exercise in letting go of the need to be validated. To be free of the need to impress others. Pleasing everyone is an impossible job. If that is what you strive for, you may just lose your mind (and slap someone)
People calling what happened last night was the worst moment in Oscar history clearly don’t understand the history of the Oscar’s. pic.twitter.com/WzhORvxMZR
— Via (@ViaLoveFan) March 28, 2022