The conundrum of Will Smith’s slap

Recently, the world was rocked a little when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television. My husband told me about it around the time that it happened and I watched social media explore the issues for the next few days. There are many strong views offered up on all sides of the issue, many with personal examples and clear trauma underlying the posts.

And so I can’t help but put my own two cents into the fray.

As the disabled wife of a protective husband and with all of the information available to date, I would be proud of my husband if he behaved the same way.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I would be proud of my husband if he acted physically to protect or avenge me in a similar situation. While I don’t condone violence generally and we are raising our brown boys to use their superior negotiating skills prior to physical retaliation, my husband has shown me (and my father before him) that in the world of men, there are lines that cannot be crossed without a response. The longer I live with a terminal illness that causes all kinds of side effects that sometimes cannot be hidden and are often humbling and embarrassing, there are different issues that push different buttons.

The more I live with an often baffling, sometimes invisible and always changing diagnosis, the more I understand how much our culture and our interaction is based on ableist criteria. Before my diagnosis, this did not bother me very much because I didn’t often see or understand how hard it is to access so much when one is disabled in any way. Any issues I encountered during illnesses or pregnancies were rather easily adjusted to in the short term, but now I’ve been living with physical disabilities, some more visible than others, for more than five (5) years.

It sucks to be disabled in a world set up for those who are not.

It sucks when one’s disability is clear and visible to others.

It sucks when others comment on your disability without understanding it.

It sucks to be singled out.

It really sucks when no one stands up for you.

And so, while I don’t condone violence generally, when I see a husband standing up for his wife when she is being mocked for something she is struggling with, I don’t immediately think that’s wrong. And I think everyone needs to think a little harder about what it feels like to be affected by an illness one has no control over, something that affects your appearance as a woman, and then to be the butt of unkind jokes. We should all be standing up for those people in our midst who need help, who need the strength of others, who just want to be included.

I will close with one other phenomenon that I’ve noticed playing out on social media and in the people groups that I’ve observed. In the situation involving the slap by Will Smith, each of the people involved were black. It makes me wonder if the reaction, if the backlash would have been different if one or more of the people involved were white. Additionally, watching the responses, I found that many fell along racial lines, demonstrating that the concept of the angry black man is still embedded in our cultural psyche, whether we are aware of it or not.

What a tangled web of ugliness and ill-treatment and love. Love of a man for his wife was on full display, regardless of how any individual person interprets it.

For yet another perspective, please check out my friend and fellow recovering lawyer’s blog post here. While you are at it, check out her other posts and follow her musings about living with a chronic and debilitating illness that is not treated the same as cancer. It is enlightening, illuminating and oh so sad to see how badly those of us who are other are treated.

46 thoughts on “The conundrum of Will Smith’s slap

  1. I felt the slap was well justified. And something else. A slap is so much more than a punch in this situation. Will was within his rights to protect his wife’s honor. It’s not as if he went up there and punched Rock in the face. He slapped him. A much more appropriate response for the situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, yet mocking, unkind, bullying words will CRUSH MY SOUL.”
    No, two wrongs don’t make a right, but standing up to bullying is not wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s been hard to ignore this subject because the BBC are still playing clips of what happened. I don’t consider cruelly humiliating another person as comedy, it seems more bullying or abuse than entertainment. So in some respects, I would like to say that the comedian who made that insensitive and unkind joke needs to be educated about how to make want to laugh without hurting others. But of course, I do not think that an act of violence is an appropriate or acceptable way of educating someone.

    I don’t really care about the Oscars, but I think it is a shame that what should have been an opportunity to recognize and award the contribution an actor has made to the entertainment industry is now dominated by the media magnifying his giving way to weakness (committing an act of violence) even if it was prompted by justifiable anger. I feel for him in that I totally understand why he was provoked by that joke. If it was a joke directed at him, he would not have reacted that way, but to have his wife humiliated, that clearly was intolerable to him. It is a shame that he will be remembered for the violence though. I think many people will empathise with how he must have felt, but we all know that assaulting someone physically is not the way to handle provocation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hear you and I think in some ways that it is good that everyone is talking about what happened. Everyone has their own experiences, their own perspectives, and it’s all valid. Thanks for reading and commenting!!

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    2. I also learned that his father abused his mother and he felt guilty as a child for not helping her. For not standing up for her. That guilt I am sure played in enormous role. He was also angry at his father for not treating his mother well.

      Also, Chris rock did several run-throughs of the jokes he was going to do. He did not practice that one. That one was off the cuff. And that is why we don’t do that. That is why they had practices. He went off script and he messed up, badly.

      I’m so disappointed that most of what I see is supporting Chris rock and against Will Smith’s. Chris rock’s ticket sales have skyrocketed. I couldn’t be more disappointed. 😢

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Which makes it even more easy to empathize with Will. There is so much going on in this picture. I do think that most people would feel that cruelty has no place in comedy, it should not be an acceptable part of entertainment. But there are so few comedians I truly enjoy. We just wish that the physical assault had not taken place. It seems a shame that an event that should have been about an award for his contribution to film has now become a debate about the right and wrong way to handle a cruel public insult. I know first hand the pain that cruel insults can cause. It destroyed me experience being a target of “cruel comedy” over a lengthy time period, but although I had every right to be angry, I had to control my emotions in the way I responded to it.

        Lots of people empathize with Will but cannot condone the physical assault. I wish this had not happened, because it would have been nice just to think that after decades of entertaining people, Will Smith won an Oscar, rather than have this hanging over the event. Yeah, it’s just a real shame.

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  4. My husband and I actually watched the entire thing. I did not know Jada Smith’s diagnosis, but as a woman who’s been bald twice, I immediately thought she had cancer. And I thought it was wrong for Chris Rock to tease her. So cruel and unnecessary. I don’t condone violence either, but I think Whoopey Goldber hit it on the head when she said, “He snapped.”

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    1. Agreed! Alopecia, her diagnosis, is something that is a side effect of many IV chemotherapy regimens and can be permanent. It is also a diagnosis that can be caused by a variety of other underlying issues. Regardless, anything that has to do with one’s appearance or is the result of a medical issue is off limits to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m surprised that we haven’t heard more incidents over the years because comedians somehow get a free pass to say just about anything in the name of “comedy.” I thought this “joke” was tamer than many things that comics get away with saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you — I think the difference here is that the comment was made right in front of the person who was the butt of the “joke,” or at least that’s what felt different to me. I do think that there are ways to be funny without hurting others.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You already know I am 100% in the same place as you! I was so excited to read this! Thank you for writing it, and thank you also for the shout out and kind words about my blog and how bizarre it is that despite having different conditions, a lot of what we go through is similar or easily understood by the other.

    I can’t count the times I have been on the phone with somebody sobbing and sobbing about the way somebody treated me when there was nothing I could do about it. Hard for people like us who are used to not stopping until something is resolved and corrected!

    And thank you for the perspective about race. That’s even more disappointing given the amazing Oscar win by Ariana DeBose.

    It just means we all still have work to do for as long as we have breath. Great blog entry! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I worry that Will Smith’s act will tell less stable people that it’s fine to physically attack others. Wouldn’t it have been better if he had taken a deep breath, marched to the stage, taken the microphone from Chris Rock, explained about his wife’s alopecia, and told Rock his “joke” was deeply hurtful and he demands an apology?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I totally agree, that would have been much better; but how many of us make good, logical decisions in the heat of the moment? I think the piece that I wanted to highlight that is often missed is the experience of those of us with visible disabilities and how it is acceptable generally to make fun. Having someone stick up for his wife is a welcome thing, in my mind, even if he didn’t do it in the best way.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I certainly got your point, Abigail. I thought Will Smith’s instinct was spot-on and Chris Rock’s “joke”was appalling, and I lament that Rock left for a comedy tour with the price of admission grossly inflated.

        I just find the growing tendency toward violence frightening—even when the motivation is understandable, even pure.

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  8. Hi all, I really think that we are all very stressed out!! We have had so many years of VS!! Masks vs None, Parents vs Teachers, Republicans vs
    Democrats, and after over a hundred years Black vs Whites. We just now had a bill signed making Lynching illegal!! What is wrong with us??????I have always been fat, thus in my life it has always been Fat vs Thin. I have a Gay son so now it is Gay( oh I must be careful! I live in Florida) vs Straight!! My parents taught me to care about the feelings of others and my BFF who calls herself , “paper bag tan” was raised the same!!! My feelings are this! We have all been under sooo much stress these past few years that just like Whoopi said, he snapped! He had a “meltdown”, we have all had “meltdowns”!! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we now witnessed both men shaking hands and instead of a Will VS Chris we could witness two grown men apologizing for their poor behavior. It is never easy to apologize, but that is what we all need to see right now!! Just Sayin!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️🙏🏼🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, apologies would be so important. My perspective has definitely changed due to my health challenges and I’ve seen so many things that are different between healthy and disabled people. It’s a conundrum and a difficult thing for so many people.

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      1. I definitely understand!! And there were so many days that I wished for this kind of protection from my son in law!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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  9. Great post, Abigail. In my opinion, I don’t believe Chris intended to hurt anyone. But he does need some education. Although I understand Will’s reaction, he missed an opportunity to explain the situation and help educate others and raise awareness. And Will didn’t need to use violence to get his message out. But I do understand as I’ve lost my cool too, more times than I like to admit.

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  10. Well I am obviously on the other side of the fence on this one. Today I watched an ABC interview with the producer of the Oscars, Will Packer, who was just as shocked as everyone in that room and millions around the world who watched the show. Yes, it was a comment in poor taste, which Will Smith was laughing at before he exhibited poor impulse control. To boldly go up onstage and assault Chris Rock I felt was classless and arrogant. Children live what they learn. Jaden Smith immediately posted on Twitter “And that’s how we do it”.
    In other words, he supported his father’s actions. Today Smith resigned his membership from the Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences . In his statement he said “My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful and inexcusable”. He also noted that he will “never again allow violence to overtake reason”. I sincerely hope he meant that. For his character’s sake.

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  11. Sorry, I disagree.
    What Chris Rock said was unacceptable. No question.
    But violence is never the answer.
    Ideally, I would have wanted Smith, to have stood up, and said,
    It’ s unacceptable to make jokes about a person’s appearance,
    I want you to retract and apologise,

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  12. I read and reread the five ‘It sucks..’ lines. The second one about when a disability is clear and obvious. Surely you left out the …when the disability is not visible nor obvious.
    If I had to take a side I would come down on the side opposite you while at the same time understanding why you stand where you do. And I will tell you something that really stopped me. The fact that you feel so strongly made me wonder how much you must have felt at times when people misunderstand what your life is. And I am not ashamed to say you provoked a couple of tears in this old man’s eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. (I don’t know you, but I’m hopping in to respond anyway. Hope that’s OK.)

      I have been floored at how many people with chronic or terminal conditions understood this from Wills point of view, despite normally not being advocates of violence.

      It’s not so much that people are glad he chose violence, but more touched by the fact that he did something (anything) that shook people up and forced the world to look at and talk about the experience from the perspective of the person who was being attacked below the belt.

      It was a human response, because we are all humans before we are anything else. People suffer so much indignity already with many of these conditions, and it’s easy to see how one could snap like this.

      I appreciate your response and that you took the time to understand why Abigail felt the way she did. Just a little bit of understanding goes so far sometimes. ☺️

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I read your post – I think it was yours- and I read Abigail’s again. Am I allowed to say I’ve changed my mind. That man needed that slap. Years ago I wrote something about the way people treated my mother who had been badly injured in a car smash. Growing up with her taught all of us – my brothers and sisters – to see through the shadows at the light . If you want there is this link. I hope it still works. https://wordpress.com/post/johnsstorybook.wordpress.com/3341

        Liked by 2 people

      2. The link doesn’t seem to be working, but I greatly appreciate that you took the time to consider a different point of view. (Yes, the linked post was mine.) That’s all I ever ask. We don’t always have to agree, but we should always take the time to listen to different perspectives. I am so grateful to people who do and I try to remember to do the same for others. Thank you!

        Liked by 2 people

  13. I think if he addressed the issue by talking rather than slapping, the focus would have been on his intentions to protect his wife from unkind comments. It would have started a discussion about how much (in the name of comedy) is too much…but the slap stole all the limelight and has become the point of discussion. So yes his intentions were bang on, his reaction could have been different.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed — although I have to say that there are two main ways to persuade people, one is to shock them, the other is by repetition. I do feel overall that the repetition part has happened and hasn’t made enough of a difference. Time for some shock.

      Liked by 1 person

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