We’ve all seen the headlines.
A white person commits a crime, and its media coverage includes an excuse as to what happened—they were triggered; they snapped; they’ve always been kind and quiet; they were on Ambien—accompanied by a wholesome picture instead of a mugshot.
White people are often afforded this disturbing benefit of the doubt, this belief that losing a job or being stressed means that you can mistakenly attack or steal or even worse, kill someone. It’s the judge hugging a murderer and giving her a Bible after her sentencing. It’s insurrectionists, actual traitors against the very fabric of American democracy, being given lighter sentences or even bail. It’s a juror stating she doesn’t want to send Elizabeth Holmes, the Theranos CEO and scammer who bilked corporations out of billions and may have endangered the lives of thousands by deploying a blood-testing device that never worked, to prison because “she’s so young.” Elizabeth Holmes is 37-years-old.
Black people are never offered a modicum of the same understanding and humanity. And honestly, no one should when it comes down to committing horrible crimes. But even in the wake of facing the worst evils of oppression, Black people are supposed to ask for grace and tamp down their anger and humiliation and preserve civility.
Simply put, our humanity, our right to be fallible, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes, is often denied.
By now everyone has seen Will Smith slap host Chris Rock at the recent Academy Awards ceremony over comments he made about wife Jada Pinkett-Smith's shorn hair. If you’re a pop culture love like me, you’ve already heard every take, from the scaldingly hot to coldly racist (Fuck off, Judd Apatow) to the maddeningly hypocritical (Alec Baldwin punched a man over a parking spot and years before he killed cinematographer Haylna Hutchins in a horrific onset accident) to the outright insane (white women claiming they claiming couldn't sleep after the incident).
I have a lot of feelings about the situation (especially confronted with Chris Rock’s Piers Morgan-esque obsession with Jada and his apparent disdain for Black women), but I’m not sure you need another one. And frankly, there are some people who have stated it in far better and more eloquent ways than I ever could.
But there’s one thing I haven’t heard from many people during this firestorm of memes and backlash and craziness.
So I’m going to say it with my whole chest and my entire heart:
Congratulations, Will Smith, on your Oscar win.
Willard Carroll Smith Jr. is only the fifth actor to win a Best Actor award in The Academy’s 94 years.
He joins an elite and sadly small club of Black actors: Sidney Poitier. Denzel Washington. Jamie Foxx. and Forest Whitaker.
He has created a career that has delighted, entertained, and enthralled entire generations, from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to Bad Boys and beyond.
He has played Muhammad Ali, a secret alien FBI agent, a lovelorn superhero, a charismatic cop, and most recently Richard Williams, the mad genius father of Venus and Serena in his now Oscar-winning role in King Richard.
He has created a loving blended family that is always there to support him. He has spent his career spreading joy and positivity that will not be erased by one terrible and insanely public mistake for which he is already making amends.
Regardless of what happens in the future, how Hollywood will inevitably overcorrect and ignore Smith’s decades of box office smashes, good deeds, and squeaky cleanness, no one or nothing will be able to take that away from him.
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.