It was the slap heard around the world. Comedian, actor and Academy Awards host Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald haircut, which is not a fashion statement but due to alopecia. Her husband, Will Smith, walked onto the stage at the 94th Academy Awards on March 27 and slapped Rock across the face, then later went home with an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in the film “King Richard.”
Everyone has an opinion about who was right and who was wrong. Some of the resounding remarks on social media include: why did Smith show out in front of white people at a “white” event and Smith embarrassed Black America.
“With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community,” NBA legend and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in a blog post, adding that it was “troubling on so many levels” for Black men.
“It’s not your responsibility to carry the burden of thinking 1 Black person represents millions of people,” tweeted Jamarlin Martin, CEO of The Moguldom Nation. “No positive or negative behavior is going to change someone or a people who thinks like that. This is too much unscientific weight to carry. Stop acting like a slave.”
Many in Black America often complain that Black people who “make it” have been taught to be 110 percent better, to not show anger, to abide by “don’t worry, be happy.”
“But perhaps the larger question that should be asked is why Blacks in Hollywood have routinely been expected to grin and bear embarrassment and degradation without expressing any discontent or risk being viewed as angry?” asked Dr. Maia Niguel Hoskin in an article for Forbes. Hoskin is a race scholar and assistant professor at Loyola Marymount University, Department of Specialized Programs in Professional Psychology.
Most people agree that grievances should not be met with fists or open-palmed slaps, Hoskin added.
“But perhaps there is space to challenge the system and the cultural norms and expectations that have created a pressure cooker for repressed and stereotyped emotions and behaviors of people of color,” she wrote. “Bottom line: the joke was made in extremely poor taste. Many have pointed out that it is far from the norm for the health of white actresses to be made the butt of a joke in such a public and esteemed space. So, why should it be acceptable for Black women to be made the exception, and why is the public so eager to only wag their fingers in judgment of Smith’s behavior and not question the racist system that was designed to incubate his and so many others’ frustrations?”
Many in Black America seem to be tired of worrying about what whites think about them. And they are equally tired of folks thinking one Black person represents all Black people.
“As if Will Smith somehow represents the best or worst of us. Wth? Disappointed in this take to say the least,” tweeted T.L. Gill.
“By the way, if you feel like Will Smith’s actions was a ‘bad look’ for Black people everywhere… Wait til you hear some of the stuff white people have done!” tweeted Michael Harriot, author of “Black Af History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America.”
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Others expressed being tired of worrying about how they are viewed by white people.
“I cannot begin to explain the magnitude by which I don’t care what white people think about us. Please stop living for them and policing your feelings and actions based on the criticisms they’ll extend you regardless. Live, laugh, and slap freely,” tweeted Olayemi Olurin.
Photo: Will Smith and Chris Rock joke around prior to the world premiere of “The Matrix,” March 24, 1999, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Rene Macura)