Will Smith Slapped Chris Rock So Hard It Hurt All Black Men
Of the many, many, many disturbing elements about Will Smith slapping the dog shit out of Chris Rock in front of millions of people at the 2022 Oscars is that we were reminded of just how important both of these men are to African Americans. This is no reflection on Will and Chris as men, but that is deeply problematic. No comic or actor should be so important. There is no White comedian or movie star in the world that is as important to White folks as these men are to us.
In a room full of non-famous Black folks, Will or Chris is a virtual lock to be the big dog in the room. In a room full of non-famous White folks, Bradley Cooper or Kevin James are about as likely to hold rank-and-file status as they are to be worshiped because of their notoriety. With that being said, that slap stung all Black men that night and my head is still ringing. It hurt because both of these men have made valuable contributions to the culture over decades and, fair or unfair, that incident diminished them both. As an artist and creator, I love Will, and I will always love the brother. But Will was wrong. As an artist and a creator, I love Chris, and I will always love the brother. But Chris was wrong for that joke. Dead wrong. Black people needed to see an act of violence between two Black middle-aged millionaire icons like we need a hole in the head.
And I am pretty sure it landed badly for the rest of America, too. Healing does not come easy in a nation trying desperately to be post-Trump, post-pandemic, post-recession, post-Black Lives Matter protests, and post-Afghanistan war. But as it is with everything else, the Black pain was served with some stank on it. On a night when a long misunderstood and underappreciated Black father was finally getting his due (the amazing Richard Williams) it was deflating to see two other Black fathers stain themselves in such a permanent way.
It is undeniable that what erupted between Will and Chris was a microcosm of what is wrong with Black men of our peer group. Like far too many of us do on a regular basis, Chris was disrespectful and insensitive; insulting the image of a Black woman for the entertainment and amusement of the world. He invited the world to jeer at a sister for her physicality. Like far too many of us do on a regular basis, Will resorted…