The Oscars 2022 will forever be remembered for ‘that slap’ and the fall out from Chris Rock’s joke and Will Smith’s reaction to it. There is so much to unravel from the 1 minute 24 seconds of outrageous behaviour that took place.
Let me begin with Chris Rock, some have suggested he is completely innocent, others have implied he deserved exactly what he got. Chris Rock made an error of judgement on two counts, firstly making a joke about someone’s medical condition is not fair game. Hair loss, especially for women is no laughing matter. For many women going through hair loss, there can also be a sense of lost identity as well. It has damaging effects on self-esteem, confidence and can lead to mental health issues. Jada Smith had previously spoken about her battle with alopecia and how terrified she was when she first began to lose her hair. “it was one of those times in my life where I Was literally shaking in fear.” Chris Rock making fun of Jada Smith’s condition live on stage was just wrong
Secondly Chris Rock putting down a woman of colour in front of millions was again insensitive, that’s not to say had Jada been white it would have been any less sensitive. However, Rock would have known the additional struggles that women of colour face, particularly in the entertainment industry. He is aware of the struggles that Black women and girls face to love there appearance in a world that does not always consider black, beautiful. I’m going to say it out loud, “black men should be elevating black women, not diminishing them.” Having said that Will Smith’s reaction in his own words were “unacceptable and inexcusable”. It reminded me of one of his films, In the Pursuit of Happiness, where his character says “Others may look for all kinds of ways to diminish your worth. But what is inside you no one can take from you or tarnish.” No one has tarnished Will Smith’s reputation, other than himself.
He actions have fed into the unconscious biases that believe black men are aggressive, less cerebral and the myth that ‘black on black’ violence is somehow the norm. You only have to open Twitter to see black on black violence trending. There are thousands of comments such as “The Academy just excused black on black violence for the sake of saving their most diverse Oscars” and “Chris Rock insulted a black women so Will Smith punched a black man. It’s a circle of black on black violence tonight”, and many more comments linking Smith’s actions to ‘Black Crime’. Smith’s conduct has given these stereotypes, credence.
James Allen wrote in his book; As a man Thinketh, “Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power”. Smith in his rash actions, showed his weakness, in his lack of thought, his ignorance and in his violence his impotence. Self control is a key trait for effective leadership, as leaders you learn early on to think before you act. Smith said today that he reacted emotionally, it would have been far better for him had he reacted emotionally intelligently!
We look to the likes of Chris Rock and Will Smith to set an example to be role models and an inspiration to young people. We hold them up as examples of what you can become and achieve with dedication and hard work. Both men fell short on Sunday evening.
One used his voice to denigrate a women the other used violence when he should have used his voice.