Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock at the Oscars in response to the comedian’s remarks about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, has elicited mixed reactions. Some people have praised Smith for standing up for his wife, while others have slammed him for his actions. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar authored a long op-ed condemning Smith and stating that his treatment of Rock reinforces prejudices about the Black community. In a piece titled “Will Smith Did a Bad, Bad Thing,” Abdul-Jabbar placed Smith’s assault on Rock in historical perspective, claiming that the incident provided yet another chance for white supremacists to portray them in a negative manner.
“When Will Smith stormed onto the Oscars stage to strike Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife’s short hair, he did a lot more damage than just to Rock’s face. With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community,” he said.
People who support systematic racism in America believe that people of color are more violent and unable to manage their emotions, he analyzed.
“Smith just gave comfort to the enemy by providing them with the perfect optics they were dreaming of. Many will be reinvigorated to continue their campaign to marginalize African Americans and others through voter suppression campaign.”
“Hollywood awards shows are traditionally a venue where much worse things have been said about celebrities as a means of downplaying the fact that it’s basically a gathering of multimillionaires giving each other awards to boost business so they can make even more money,” Abdul-Jabbar says. Some celebrities, like Tiffany Haddish, applauded Smith’s actions because they believed he was sticking up for his wife, according to Abdul-Jabbar. However, the NBA Hall of Famer explains why Rock’s slap was also a “slap to women.”
“Actually, it was the opposite. Smith’s slap was also a slap to women. If Rock had physically attacked Pinkett Smith, Smith’s intervention would have been welcome. Or if he’d remained in his seat and yelled his post-slap threat, that would have been unnecessary, but understandable,” he wrote.
“By hitting Rock, he announced that his wife was incapable of defending herself—against words,” Abdul-Jabbar explained. “From everything I’d seen of Pinkett Smith over the years, she’s a very capable, tough, smart woman who can single-handedly take on a lame joke at the Academy Awards show.”
In the same blog post, Kareem praised Chris Rock for his maturity in managing the matter and for not exaggerating the scenario.
In a message uploaded on his social media pages, Smith has officially apologized to Rock.