(News4usonline) – By now, just about everyone has expressed their opinion about the high-profile incident between actor Will Smith and comedian Chris Rock at the 94th version of the Academy Awards. It’s everywhere. Everyone is talking about it.
But in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter when you consider what’s happening in Ukraine? That would be a no. Is Smith slapping Rock onstage at the Oscars equally as important to the nation and the world trying to put an end to the Covid-19 pandemic? Not even close.
In comparison to Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson being the first Black woman confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, how would Rock’s denigration of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, with a punitive and tasteless joke, stack up?
I would say a little bit below the priority line. And since we’re on a roll, we can talk about how the Smith-Rock incident has overshadowed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act going into law, making lynching a federal crime.
So as the world evolves and moves on with other items on the docket, the Academy Awards flap involving Smith and Rock is no small slice of pie either. You have two rich and well accomplished Black men setting up shop with unwanted verbal assaults and a physical one on one of the world’s biggest platforms: the Oscars.
And yet we see the language or word coding that has come to identify Black people, particularly Black men whenever the mood suits America. Violence is that one word that moves the needle for me more than anything else.
Up until this point, Smith’s career and personal have been anything but violent. Far from it.
From his days as the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to him rapping the chill summer anthem “Summertime,” to doing blockbuster films such as “Independence Day, “Men in Black,” “I Am Legend, and the “Bad Boys” franchise, Smith has been the pristine example of success in Hollywood.
Smith is that fun-loving kid next door who became a Black hero of sorts. For some reason, you find a way to root for him, from his character roles in “Ali,” “The Pursuit of Happiness, and “Seven Pounds,” among his many standout films. He always seems to be that lovable Will Smith.
Until now. If you look at the Oscars from some perspective, Smith is being ballyhooed as a downright scoundrel for his actions. Rock, on the other hand, is being purported as a helpless victim.
Now technically, Rock was assaulted by Smith, but his actions were no more different than when Halle Berry was planted with an uninvited and unwanted smooch on the lips by Adrien Brody at the 2003 Academy Awards.
Hollywood or not, you just cannot invite yourself to kiss someone in the workplace or any other place without their consent or permission. Not cool. At the very least Brody’s actions would be deemed to be akin to sexual harassment.
What kind of discipline did Brody get for his actions? Well, let’s put it like this: he wasn’t asked to leave that night and he has not been banned from the Academy Awards. Nor were the police waiting to arrest him as reportedly they were when Smith committed his offense. In this country, race still matters.
Rock is not innocent in this matter.
That’s because Rock has ragged on the Smiths in public before. And what was supposed to be the pinnacle of Smith’s (King Richard) career, Rock, as a Black man, decided or rather made it a point to go after Pinkett Smith with a classless zing about her shaven head.
Unless Rock has had his head in the sand for the past several years, Pinkett Smith has made her hair loss due to alopecia areata, public.
Alopecia areata leads to hair loss. According to a study done by the American Academy of Dermatology, alopecia areata affects Black people at a higher rate than any other ethnic group. A form of alopecia (central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia) has been cited as the No. 1 reason why Black women lose their hair, the American Academy of Dermatology states.
So, it’s kind of hard to believe that Rock, who wrote and produced “Good Hair,” a 2009 documentary about the hairstyles of Black Americans, especially around Black women, would not have a clue about the disorder that has afflicted Pinkett Smith and millions of other people.
Ok. But to be fair to Rock, anything and everything is fair game to comedians. However, sometimes that could be at the expense of hurting someone, whether they willingly know it or not. Look, I get it. I’ve been to comedic shows in around the Los Angeles area and have been the butt of jokes for either walking in late or sitting in the hot spot of the first row.
Those are easy targets for comedians. Either one of these settings basically ensures that you will have your coattails pulled by the comedian on stage. I never take those comedic jabs personally. However, I also understand that just because you can do something doesn’t always mean that you should.
Free speech or one’s First Amendment rights do not always prevail as a shield of protection from doing what’s thoughtful and the right thing to do. Comedians tread water along this line all the time. Some, unfortunately, cross that barrier. Whether or not Rock crossed that line is something that only he and God knows.
Obviously, Smith thought that Rock jumped all the way over that line with the way he reacted. As a professional journalist, I try to use that mantra when I write. As a writer, my duty is to inform. How I disseminate that line of communication is always up for interpretation.
Some people are going to like it, some will not. That comes with the territory. That also pertains to comedians. It may be more difficult to uplift than to tear someone down, but we, as a society should give it a try more often.
Featured Image: Will Smith accepts the Oscar® for Actor in a Leading Role during the live ABC telecast of the 94th Oscars® at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA, on Sunday, March 27, Photo credit: Blaine Ohigashi / A.M.P.A.S.