It's Time We Stop Making Black Women the Butt of the Joke

credit: @jadapinkettsmith/Instagram

If you didn’t watch it live, someone you know probably sent you the video or tweeted about it. It’s been dubbed “The Slap Heard ‘Round The World”. Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars. Now that wasn’t on your 2022 bingo card, was it?

I’m not gonna lie — I didn’t know what I was going to see when I saw Will and Chris trending, but it certainly wasn’t Will slapping Chris. It was, however, a pleasant surprise.

I saw it as him standing up for his wife, who has struggled openly with alopecia. I thought Chris’ joke about Jada being in G.I. Jane 2 was in poor taste. To make a joke like that in front of her peers is rude and uncalled for. And this isn’t even the first time Chris has had something to say about Jada in front of her peers (he mocked her boycott of the Oscars in 2016).

He clearly thought that poking fun at her hair would get a few cheap laughs — which it did — but Jada didn’t appreciate the comment; rolling her eyes as a response. When Will saw his wife was upset, he took it upon himself to get up and defend his wife by getting on stage and smacking Chris. It took the Oscars by storm.

Chris quickly tried to brush it off, but Twitter was having none of it and very quickly there was an almost cultural divide. You have people saying Will assaulted Chris, some even calling for police involvement, and others saying Will was protecting his wife. I am on the latter side.

What Chris Rock did was rooted in misogynoir. Chris, being a black man who literally starred in a documentary about Black hair, should know better than to make this joke. Making fun of Black women’s hair is simply wrong. A black woman’s hair is their pride and joy, something that we are taught since youth to love and protect. Losing our hair, may it be from a big chop, or from a disease like Jada’s, is a trying, soul-changing experience.

This is not the first time that black women and their hair have been a part of an unfunny joke. So often black women are seen as the butt of the joke, our pain used for laughter. Due to respectability politics we often have to smile at it and pretend it doesn’t hurt us. I applaud Will for actually protecting black women, and making sure his wife was defended in a world where our hair is pulled off for laughs. Will stood by his wife, and Chris was held accountable. Could he have done it in a less public way? Sure. But his wife was humiliated publicly, so he handled it publicly.

So often black women are humiliated and expected to deal with it behind the scenes. My heart goes out to Jada. She not only had to experience this uncalled-for joke, but now has to see her husband trending on think pieces from people who don’t understand how humiliating that is, nor care to see a black woman as a victim in this.

Jada, I hope you are doing well. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I hope that you surround yourself with people who will take care of you and your emotions at this time.

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Rebekah Suber
27 years old and still don't know how to write a bio. Unhealthy obsession with the Sims. If I'm not running around after my daughter, I'm either listening to a podcast or rewatching The Nanny.