Updated: Mar 31
So I sit here days after comedian/actor Will Smith casually walked on stage at the Oscars award show and open hand slapped comedian/actor Chris Rock in the face. The "slap heard around the world" rocked all levels of society. People were shocked, angry, happy, supportive, condemning and all sorts of reactions in-between. As seen from social media we all seemed to have opinions on it. A lot of people have expressed those opinions in videos, memes, pictures, articles, blogs, interviews and whatever other way people can get their opinion seen. Now, I am no different than anyone else when it comes to something that has happened like this because I, too, have an opinion.
Opinions are interesting because they come in various waves, like the initial reaction where all I have is a response based on assumptions and little information. Then I have the response formed by the collective, as people react and share their opinions on it. Many of us don't realize that this influences our own opinions greatly for better or worse. Then there is the slightly informed opinion that comes from getting more background on the incident and people involved. Then, as the emotions calm, the noise gets lower and the "facts" start to truly come out, I have what I feel is my most educated opinion. This is often the least listened to because it comes well after the instant responses and genuine care about the issue by most people. For me, I try not to respond to these types of events early because the "assumptions" can be biased and extremely cloudy when it comes to being objective. I also think responding early with little facts forces me to, as the comedians say about easy jokes, "to pick the low-hanging fruit." I think we deserve better than that which is where, I believe at least, I am at now. So let me dive into where my mind went after some thought.
I've said for a long time that people really want and hope for the best out of everything. We want everyone to love what we do, say, perform, show, create and whatever else we can come up with. We need people to love us and love our "act" to validate who we are in this world. What we fail to understand, expect, or even want is the opposite of those things which comes with the package of putting things out to the world. We have come to expect, no, that isn't right, demand that people only praise us for our actions. When it doesn't happen, we circle the wagons in condemnation even if the person who we deem the villain is technically right in our minds. That is what society has done to the way we view the world. We put stupid labels on it all to make our point as well. You know labels like "woke," "Cancel Culture," "ableist," "(pick one)-phobic," "toxic masculinity," and many, many more. Most of those were responses I saw on social media to the Smith/Rock incident. And that, to me, is the low-hanging fruit and, as usual, we, as society, happily picked it and ate it.
What is funny is that if Chris Rock has said, "Jada, I love you (which he actually did say) and am proud to see you rocking that look like a boss. Ya'll see this? A black women can do anything. Hell, they better cast you in GI Jane 2!" If he would have said something like then he would have been praised for understanding her fight, respecting his culture, uplifting the black woman, and so-on and so-on. Truth is verbiage matters. Truth is delivery matters. Truth is perception matters. Truth is history matters. Truth is none of this shit matters because it is all perspective.
You see, when we put something out to the world we don't get to decide what the world does with it. We don't get to say "treat it well and honor it like I would honor it." This blog I am writing, I hope people enjoy, find enlightening, or the very least not a waste of their time. I hope that people will have wonderfully deep thoughts because it and that it causes conversation. I hope that for all my blogs, vlogs and inspiration posts. But here's the thing: I know that what I am doing is putting "MY" opinion out to the world. Some will hate it. Some will bypass it. Some will think I am stupid and my points are stupid. Some may say I have stupid face, too. They are entitled to that because I, yes, me, have put it out to the world and said, "Listen to me!" I am nothing more than one of the mass of people with countless opinions on anything and everything in life. If no one reads this blog, okay. If it goes viral and makes it to where I get interviewed on TV for it, okay. What matters is I know that I put it out there and that the world will do with it what it does. So, how does this relate to the incident? Simple.
Jada chose to put her alopecia out to the world. She was going to be tough, firm and be a bad ass with it. The interesting thing for me was that I had no idea of this "fight" she was going through. When I saw her picture, I just went "Okay, her hair is short." Many women of color have short hair. In fact, as far back as I can remember, she has had short hair a lot in her life. The point is, I would have thought similar to Chris Rock with the GI Jane reference. To be honest, it's one of my favorite movies, and Demi was a bad ass in it. So, does it make me horrible that I would think the same as Chris? Would I be worthy of a slap? No. Simply, no. Jada put it out there, and it doesn't matter if Chris knew or not. She knows that she has to deal with both the good and the bad of being open on her platform. And, for the record, I am not saying it is her fault or she did anything wrong in any of this. In fact, in the moment, she (kinda) rolled her eyes or at the very least showed she was upset at a joke she found tasteless, which is HER CHOICE. Just like she probably laughed at many of the other jokes about other celebrities told that night. She also probably didn't laugh at some of them either. She, like all of us, gets to choose what is funny, no matter if we are the butt of the joke or not. But this blog isn't about Jada, Will or Chris either. Nope. This is about us as a society.
The slap reminded me of how easy we jump on a cause, grab the torches and pitchforks, and go hunt the Monster. We pick whatever side that seems best suited for us and we go to war. If you are on the other side, then you are the enemy, you are wrong, you are evil, you are stupid, you are insensitive, and you deserve whatever you get. We donate all of our energy to that new cause until something else comes up. That's the scary part of this slap. It muted so many major stories that the mob even forgot to pay attention to what was important in the real world. Now, I am not going to go into the "you should be paying attention too..." type crap that happens because frankly, as they say, "you do you!" What I am saying is that it is time we understood how easily we can be distracted by the shiny object because it fits into our passion or cause of the moment.
We cannot be so blinded by our pains, hurts, struggles, and battles that we forget that others, on the other side, go through it too. Our compassion and understanding what happened with facts has to return. We must want and demand that equal treatment goes across the board. Each situation has to be evaluated by its own merits, yet we should not sit back and excuse one action simply because it fits our own narrative, or better still, our own beliefs. Over the past few years we have seen too many examples of our hypocrisy. We have shown that truth isn't the goal, but being "special" and getting special treatment is and that is what the slap reminded me of as it still resonates around the world.
That being said, within a week we won't care about this incident. Next year there will be jokes about it and conversations on it at the Oscars. There will be new rules and expectations too. When the time comes, the videos will resurface, the jokes will return, and the sides will dust off their respective pitch forks and torches for "one more battle" until that gets old. We won't care about Jada, Will, Chris or Sam Jackson getting his first Oscar, Lady Gaga and Liza having a beautiful moment, or who wore what and why. We will go back to our normal battlefields and defend our, as we love to say here in America, "Freedoms!" which ever ones we, as individuals, hold dear. The slap did nothing but raise our heartbeat a bit and we've already started to get back to normal. And that, as Jaden Smith triumphantly stated, "is how we do it!"
So, I am going to leave you with the thought that sits on my mind after all the hubbub. No matter what side you found yourself on I hope you take a moment to check your labels. Ask yourself how bias has certain titles/labels made you. Are you willing to listen and learn, or do you need to only teach others your point of view? Do you need to be the victim in the story or the savior? Can you put aside your bias and see the story for what it is, or are you always prisoner to the labels you carry? The world may see you as a label or a title, but it is your choice to live under it. The only way we change the world is if we are willing to take a step back and see right and wrong for what they are which is "right" and "wrong."
I hope this incident, in the long run, will have casually walked up to each of us and slapped us in the face, and awakened us to the world we have created. Maybe then this slap will matter. Maybe. Just a Thought, Friends! LETME