*Chris Rock is a shining example of grace, class, dignity, and self-respect, not as a Black man but as a man. A gentleman personified.
When he walked onto the stage to present the award for best documentary, I paused. I thought … Chris Rock looks great. His tuxedo ensemble was beautifully tailored. His jacket was a striking velvet blue, not typical yet classic. He looked happy. A beaming smile with excitement in his eyes – happy to be on the Oscar stage and in the big room with his peers. What we know about Rock when he does his comedy routines is that he walks about the stage while telling his jokes. It’s his signature. He showcased that signature style Sunday night just before he was set to present the award for Best Documentary film.
He told jokes, got laughs and was set to announce category nominees – then Will Smith got up out of his seat and started walking onto the stage towards Rock. Rock appeared just as confused as the watching audience. Then it happened, he was slapped across the face by his peer Will Smith because Smith didn’t like the G.I. Jane Joke Rock made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith which is interesting because Will appeared to like the joke at first until he didn’t. It appears that his demeanor changed when Jada rolled her eyes and did not appear amused.
After the slap, a stunned Rock said to Smith, “It was a G.I. Jane joke.” Since the incident, it has been reported that Rock did not know that Smith’s wife had Alopecia.
Chris Rock was visibly shaken, but he pulled it together and kept the show moving. It’s said that a slap for a man is the worst kind of insult. In real life, Rock may likely have fought back. But on this night, he maintained his composure despite the embarrassment that he may have felt after being slapped across the face and not responding.
The violence that was displayed by Smith was, in my opinion, an attempt to censor. Chris Rock is a comedian whose creativity is protected by the First Amendment. We may not like some of the things that comedians choose to talk about or the language that is used during their bits – but it’s their right.
We have a right not to buy a ticket to the show. But if we do buy that ticket and hear something that we don’t like – does that mean that we have the right to accost and abuse the comedian who is just doing a job that he or she loves – which is delivering a comedy routine to fans? Granted, sensitive subject matter directed at one person should be off-limits. But remember that what may be sensitive to one person may not be to another. Comedians should not be subjected to standards that require them to get permission to tell jokes. It’s absurd.
I thought the G.I. Jane reference was a complete compliment because Demi Moore was beautiful and strong in that movie. Her haircut was daring, her physique perfect. When Rock said the joke I thought – – Jada would be great in that role. She is beautiful, her hair fits her perfectly and she has a great physique. Those were my thoughts. And, maybe it’s because I view Jada Pinkett-Smith as a glass half full. She speaks from a position of strength. She encourages it. And although Pinkett-Smith’s condition was not her choice, she appears in control. Her style at the Oscars was impeccable. Hair, clothing, physique – PERFECT.
Now Pinkett-Smith says it’s time for healing. I agree the world needs healing. This may be a great place for all of us to pause and reflect on what that healing looks like for each of us personally because each and every one of us has a cross to bear. I suspect Will Smith was carrying more than the G.I. Jane joke on his shoulders Sunday night when he decided to attack Rock. But that is no excuse. It’s up to us to determine how to carry that cross. Chris Rock showed us that in the face of violence and deciding how to respond to a personal public assault with millions around the world watching – you carry your cross with grace, dignity, and self-respect! I always say, “A gentleman is a gentleman at all times.” Chris Rock proved that statement to be factual on Oscar night.
Tibberly G. Ri’chard is a Louisiana-based writer. Contact her via Tibbgr@aol.com.