xWhen it was really like: Black Woman 👩🏾 + Alopecia👩🏾🦲= A joke by 👨🏾🦱+ for the laughter of 👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼 👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼 👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼 👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼 👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼 👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼👨🏼🦱👩🏼 +20 mil ppl.— Imani Barbarin, MAGC | Crutches&Spice ♿️ (@Imani_Barbarin) March 30, 2022
Disability rights activists have rallied in Pinkett Smith’s defense. Long tired of being the butt of comedians’ jokes, they appear to be even more exhausted with the hypocritical system of ethics that ignores systematic brutality but condemns violence when the culprit is a person of color.
If you can’t put yourself in Pinkett Smith’s shoes in that moment, you’re not qualified to dismiss Rock’s statement as “just a joke.”
Opinion writer Roxane Gay wrote for The New York Times that, although she is not defending Will Smith, she is defending “thin skin.”
“I think a lot about how we are constantly asked to make our skin ever thicker,” Gay wrote. “Toughen yourself, we’re told, whoever we are, whatever we’ve been through or are going through. Stop being so brittle and sensitive. Lighten up.”
Gay asked who is served by thick skin. “Those who want to behave with impunity,” she answered.
What added insult to injury was the much-tweeted ideology that, as a white space, the Academy Awards should be too sacred for Smith’s conduct. It is as if slapping someone at the Source Awards, or backstage—somewhere away from the gaze of white society—would somehow be tolerable.
xAnybody who thinks “Black people look bad” after the #Oscars already thought Black people look bad. Respectability doesn’t cure racism. Be Love, but please don’t think that a person who uses one moment to malign a whole group of people did not do so before that moment.— Be A King (@BerniceKing) March 28, 2022
Bernice King, the youngest child of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., weighed in on that element of the public discourse on Wednesday. “I encourage engaging with respect,” she tweeted. “But respectability [which is different] doesn’t cure racism.
“Racism has no regard for respectability.
Reminder: My father was assassinated while wearing a suit.
Let’s be well because our wellness matters, not because the white gaze matters.”
xI encourage engaging with respect.But respectability (which is different) doesn’t cure racism.Racism has no regard for respectability. Reminder: My father was assassinated while wearing a suit.Let’s be well because our wellness matters, not because the white gaze matters. pic.twitter.com/TEc7dpmZz6— Be A King (@BerniceKing) March 30, 2022
I can understand why others were moved to discuss Smith’s actions, and particularly the apparent indifference that followed at the Oscars ceremony, but what I can’t understand is why violence is so frequently discussed in relation to its effects on white people—even when both the person committing the violence and the victim of it are Black.
At this point in my life, I can’t justify smacking someone because of how I’m feeling or how my partner is feeling, and I don’t think Will Smith can either.
He released a statement acknowledging his wrong-doing on Tuesday:
Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness. I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress.Sincerely,Will
Jada penned an Instagram post the same day: “This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.”Both statements followed an immediate apology Will offered the Academy in his acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Lead Role for the movie King Richard.
Smith won the award for his depiction of Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams. And perhaps the greatest tragedy in this incident is that Will’s reaction eliminated the possibility of that sentence being the lede of this piece and so many others.
The tragedy is not what smacking Chris Rock did to white people.