'You don’t joke about Black women’s hair' - Will Smith apologises, Chris Rock will not press charges

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Jada Pinkett Smith attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Jada Pinkett Smith attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
Arturo Holmes/FilmMagic

Following ‘the slap’ incident at the Academy Awards on Sunday, 27 March 2022, Will Smith has offered two apologies for his actions. 

Amid this, Chris Rock has reportedly refused to press charges. According to CNN, the Los Angeles Police Department said he “declined to file a police report”. 

The altercation is currently the Oscars moment everyone cannot stop talking about. Chris made a joke at the expense of Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will, walked up on stage and struck the comedian across the face.

The same evening, Will went on to win an Oscar award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in the film King Richard. Teary-eyed during his acceptance speech, he apologised to the Academy and his colleagues in the film for his unceremonious act of violence.

Reflecting on the incident, the actor said: “In this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you, and you’ve got to smile and you’ve got to pretend like that’s okay.”

While regretful of the events that preceded his Oscar win, Will was unapologetic about loving and protecting his wife, Jada.

“Love will make you do crazy things,” he said, explaining his actions.

READ MORE | Ariana DeBose becomes the first openly queer woman of colour to win an Oscar - and other big winners 

The actor has provided another apology on his Instagram page. Further explaining his actions, he said: “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”

Will Smith apology
Will Smith apology
instagram willsmith
Will Smith apology

It is in this rare moment, where a Hollywood star boldly comes to the defence of a Black woman in front of a global audience, that the world did not know how to respond.

While each person has their individual take on the incident, we can all concede that it is not often that we see powerful figures in society leap to the defence of a Black woman, even though Jada is a powerful public figure herself.

The Matrix star has been openly sharing her struggles with alopecia – a condition known to disproportionately affect Black women – and has reflected on her hair loss as “terrifying” and confessed to “shaking in fear” because of it.

As a result, Chris Rock’s joke about Jada’s bald hairstyle was not welcomed. Not by Jada, Will or Black women watching the ceremony.

READ MORE | Despite the dramatic ceremony, the Oscars red carpet fashion had fun silhouettes and vibrant colours 

People using the term “bald” as a slur against Black women is not a new phenomenon. Not only that, Chris Rock has also been repeatedly critiqued for his views on Black women’s hair and his documentary Good Hair.

Upon the documentary’s release in 2009, Entertainment Weekly’s Alynda Wheat wrote that the film lacked “cogent, relevant analysis of why black women relax their hair or wear hair extensions”.

So, many have had a lot to say about the repercussions of Chris Rock's unsavoury joke about Jada Pinkett Smith on a global stage. 

Chris Rock Jada joke.
Twitter screenshot
Chris Rock Jada joke.
Twitter screenshot
Chris Rock Jada joke.
Twitter screenshot
Chris Rock Jada joke.
Twitter screenshot
Chris Rock Jada joke.
Twitter screenshot
Chris Rock Jada joke.
Twitter screenshot

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