COMMENTARY: Note to Will Smith– Unacceptable

This s a photo of Kevin Seraaj, journalist and publisher of the Orlando Advocate
Kevin Seraaj, publisher, Orlando Advocate

The SERAAJ REPORT, by Kevin Seraaj

I saw it, but I wished I hadn’t. Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars in front of . . . well, the entire world. In a word: unacceptable.

Rock told a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair and Demi Moore’s bald look in the movie ‘GI Jane.’ Jada is suffering from alopecia and has been open about it. Jada is Will’s wife. The pain and anguish inside the Smith household over Jada’s dealing with this medical problem is really known only to the family– and obviously the words “a lot” don’t do it much justice, given Will’s reaction– but still, unacceptable.

The joke was arguably in poor taste. Jada’s situation is the result of a medical issue, not a personal choice. But I’ve heard comedians talk about people with polio, Downs Syndrome, and even retardation– all in extremely poor taste to me. But the audience laughs and participates in the humiliation, ensuring the jokes will continue.

Both men are accomplished actors and have held my respect for many years. I didn’t like Rock’s joke and I didn’t like Smith’s response. So both have suffered a little in my eyes.

Yes, it’s good to see a black man stand up for his wife. But there are other ways Smith could have done that. What he DID do was say that when you don’t like something that someone has said it’s okay to resort to violence. But it’s not. Not ever.

The Black Press has a credo, part of which says: “I might not like what you say, but I will vigorously defend your right to say it.”

Smith’s reaction, no matter how personally justified by his love for his wife, not only elevated violence to the world stage, but it was also extremely disrespectful to another black man– very publicly– and begs the question: would he have reacted the same way if the emcee had been white?

Still love Will Smith. Still love Chris Rock. Disappointed in them both. And Will, your apology during your acceptance speech omitted the only person who really deserved it: Chris Rock. Completely unacceptable.