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The Slap Heard 'Round the World-- and the Antidote

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Preparing for the 84th Annual Academy Awards - giant Oscar statue
Preparing for the 84th Annual Academy Awards - giant Oscar statue
(Image by Doug Kline from flickr)
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The world was treated to a stunning drama of archetypal behaviors at Sunday night's Oscars; Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung would have been fascinated.

For anyone who has been living in a cave, the most talked about moment of the Academy Awards was when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock after he made a disturbing "joke" about Jada Pinkett Smith's baldness. She has alopecia, an autoimmune disease that results in hair loss and which can be heartbreaking and devastating.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley raised awareness of the condition when she went public in 2020 and revealed her bald head in a powerful and moving video.

According to TMZ, Jada "has been vocal about her battle with alopecia and shaved her head after getting a bald spot, back in July."

Chris Rock wrote and produced a documentary about Black women and their hair in 2009 and even interviewed alopecia sufferer, Sheila Bridges, for the film, "Good Hair." After the Oscars, Bridges stated that she was disappointed in him and sad that both men's actions "reinforced stereotypes about Black people." TMZ noted, "Sheila says it's already difficult for Black women to navigate in a hair-obsessed world, and moments like this just make it harder ... noting that society often ties a woman's worth to her hair. And, intentional or not, she feels Rock's joke played into the idea (that) Black women can and should be disrespected publicly."

A good number of holier-than-thou twitterers have denounced Smith, saying that he shouldn't have "resorted to violence." When the Academy tweeted on Monday, "The Academy does not condone violence of any form," it was seemingly complicit with the dangerously deceitful nursery rhyme:

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

This innocuous sounding rhyme is laced with cognitive dissonance: a broken bone can heal in weeks, but people spend decades in therapy trying to get over verbal and emotional abuse. And some never do. After all, physical violence only damages the body; emotional violence damages the soul.

If, indeed, the Academy "does not condone violence in any form," it should start un-condoning the kind of rampant emotional violence disguised as humor that Chris Rock used to disparage Jada Pinkett Smith. I am not saying that Will Smith is justified in slapping Chris Rock. I am saying that Chris Rock started the flow of violence with his words--words which were likely rubber-stamped by the Academy, itself. And responsibility needs to be taken for that.

Some Twitterers are demanding that Will Smith should be required to give up the Oscar for Best Actor that he won just a few minutes after The Slap Heard 'Round the World. This might be appropriate if the golden statue had also been revoked for inappropriate behavior from Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein. I'm not feeling the love for Will Smith right now, but, no fair suddenly switching the rules midstream for the Black guy.

And for those who think that Smith needs to be punished for his inappropriate behavior, well, he already is. Not only did he make a fool of himself, which will have repercussions in his professional career, but he also lost a perfect opportunity to use the incident to call Chris Rock out for his emotionally violent humor as well as call attention to an often overlooked disease. If he had done that, Smith would have been a hero. Instead, he let his anger destroy the happiness he could have experienced by winning the Oscar. And he won't be getting any warm fuzzies from any of the other winners whose moments of fame were upstaged by his aggression, either. Plus he reinforced stereotypes that will not endear him to the Black community. Overall, he did an Academy Award-winning job of sabotaging himself.

Both Rock and Smith succumbed to testosterone poisoning, which clearly affects the ability to act humanely, and is sadly rampant in the species.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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