Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock wasn’t the Worst thing that Happened on Oscar Night

Still from Academy Awards broadcast.

Will Smith slapped the shit out of Chris Rock on national television—during Hollywood’s biggest night.

I have heard film podcasts discuss the incident. I heard sports podcasts cover the event. Pieces about it were written in the Atlantic, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, and CNN.

Celebrities, academics, and public servants weighed in. Hell, even my mom had an opinion, and she doesn’t care about the Oscars.

Coverage of the event is, and continues to be, ubiquitous and unending.

Let me let you in on a little secret: people slap the taste out of each other’s mouth with alarming frequency.

I did it to someone when I was an angry black kid in middle school. I had it done to me when I picked on the wrong guy in high school. I saw it happen when I was in college and a football team from an HBCU got into a fight with, seemingly, the entire population of black men at a local university.

It happens all the time. Smith just decided to do it on national television.

I’ve heard it all. From Will Smith was wrong and we should never resort to violence to Chris Rock was wrong and we must (we should!) defend black women. There have been discussions about black women’s hair, and how the fraught relationship that the black community has with that hair is what is really at the center of this controversy.

There were even people wondering if Chris Rock was going to press charges against Will, and this, if you were ever wondering, is the proof that there are two Americas. Only a white person would ever think to ask such a question. Black folk already don’t trust the police, we certainly are not going to add shame to our already hurt egos by asking the Feds (the cops) to intervene.

Just a few years ago George Floyd was the thing that everyone was talking about, and he was but the most recent black person who had been killed by the police on camera. Last year, we were discussing the Julius Jones case, and while he was not put to death, a man that is probably innocent is still in prison for the rest of his life. We just learned that Clarence Thomas’s wife Ginny Thomas exchanged texts with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about efforts to overturn the 2020 election. As of right now, there have been a total of 1 232  confirmed deaths in the 2022 war in Ukraine, and of that number, 122 of them are children.

So…can we stop talking about Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Chris Rock?

I mean…the slap wasn’t even the worst thing that happened that night. It was the horrific rendition of the majestic and universally beloved ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ from Disney’s Encanto. What the hell were they thinking having that performance so late that it was likely after the bedtime of most children, and cutting the best parts of the song only to replace it with a verse from Megan Thee Stallion?

Questlove joyously celebrated black music with his film, Summer of Soul, and right after the incident he was given an Oscar for it. What Will Smith did completely overshadowed that much deserved win. Let’s talk about that film instead of the silly slap that Rock got from Smith.

It’s time to move on.

Lawrence Ware is a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University. He is also the Associate Director of the University’s Center for Africana Studies. He can be reached at:  Law.writes@gmail.com.