About the Oscars Last Night
I find myself shocked and amused about Will and Chris. Yet, what happened is worth thinking and talking about.
First, I abhor violence. My father taught me that never, ever, be violent or accept violence, most especially from a domestic partner. Never respond to violence with viol
ence. Therefore, when I came to America and folks said that their parents taught them that if someone hits them in school, they should hit back, I was shocked. I discovered that in different communities, violence is approached differently.
Here are a rundown of considerations that swirled around in my head all night as I wondered what all this meant:
I love audio books and everyone has asked me to listen to Will Smith read his book called “Will” on Audible as it is riveting. Last night, after that incident, I decided I would not purchase it.
I watched the slap video repeatedly and felt sullied by it. I felt so protective of Jada and her alopecia. I have lost all of 10 strands of hair on my crown as it thins out with age, and I keep saying, “I am going bald.” There is no comparison. And, I am vain.
I watched Will’s acceptance speech and wept with compassion for him and the pain that I saw in his tears, in his confusion, in him.
Denzel Washington told Will Smith, “At your highest moment, be careful, that is when the devil comes for you.” Denzel was the only one that shouted out encouragement to Will during his speech.
We know about #Oscarssowhite and this year, that could not be said as many Black people were prominently featured.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f$%&*ing mouth.” This expression is a profound statement of protection by a Black man. I had to respect that. part. My Yoruba sensibilities tell me that when a person’s name rolls around in your mouth, you give it life, you shape it, you hav a connection to it. Therefore, if you are not saying something good about me my incanting my name, then don’t speak it.
What role did the history of the abuses faced by Black men historically play in this moment? What about the disruption of the Black family and men not being able to protect their families? How did White Supremacy culture inform Black men as to the role of violence in their lives?
Those that will label this, “Black on Black violence.”
I felt ashamed that this had to play out in the public. I felt embarrassed as a Black person that this was going to be a public spectacle and be used against Black people, that once again, a Black person will not be allowed to be an individual but he will be clumped in with “all Black people.”
Why would Chris make fun of a Black woman’s hair situation given the fact that he did that movie on the beauty of Black women’s hair.
Taking care of your mental health is real. We all are susceptible.
Finally, I realized that all week, there had been a buildup in the atmosphere. The plantation experience that we all observed as the Honorable Ketanji Oyinka Brown Jackson was dragged through congress was painful for Black people in a way that very few Non-Black people can understand. The questioning, the attempts to discredit her, the concocted outrage, the diminishment of her humanity just because she is a Black woman, was a death by a thousand cuts for many Black men and women. Thank God for Corey Booker who brought her a glass of cold lemonade with ice on a blazing hot day!
Something had to give this week.
And Will’s slap did feel like a release, a balloon letting air out. I hate that it landed on Chris Rock whose professionalism and ability to carry on and move forward showed he is the consummate professional.
I wonder what the connection is – The pain of observing KBJ’s unfair interrogation and Will’s slap. Justice and violence.
With that being said, here are a couple of quotes that I came across in seminary that softened my heart and gave me compassion for those that use violence as a language.
James Gilligan said “All violence is an attempt to replace shame with self-esteem.”
“The first lesson that tragedy teaches (and that morality plays miss) is that all violence is an attempt to achieve justice, or what the violent person perceives as justice, for himself or for whomever it is on whose behalf he is being violent […] Thus, the attempt to achieve and maintain justice, or to undo or prevent injustice, is the one and only universal cause of violence.” – Jennifer Locke Whetham.
Y’all, I would never want my partner to slap someone on my behalf. I would never want to see my partner committing any violence on anyone. Yet, I would want his love and his protection in the same way I would love him and protect him as appropriate. And we live in a larger environment that brings things out of us that we may not even know lie in there.
Life has taught me that I am capable of things that I did not know lay in my heart. I once dwelled in an atmosphere of profound injustice and when one person responded with violence against oppressive powers, I found myself cheering that person on. I was ashamed of that and I was stunned that I had that capacity within me.
What I am saying is what was in Will, is in you and me, and if we do not look for that “slap within,” and manage what makes the “slap within” happen we could find ourselves doing the same thing.
And, the other thing that is in us is the ability to not make the slap and to make amends if we do.
Friends, what resonates with you? What are your thoughts about violence? I want to hear from you.