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8 thoughts on Will Smith’s act of violence

There’s so much to say about Will Smith’s physical assault of Chris Rock at the Oscars on Sunday night.

Much of it has already been said.

I’ll simply add this handful of thoughts to the conversation:

  1. My students came into school talking about the incident on Monday morning, which means that they watched an exceptionally famous actor and rapper choose violence in response to an insult. I teach my kids to avoid this type of response to unkind words every damn day. I don’t need Will Smith demonstrating the very behavior that I condemn as a teacher and a human being on national television.
  2. When you hit a human being like Will Smith did on Monday night, you risk causing serious injury. If Chris Rock falls and strikes his head on the stage, his life might be changed forever. I tell this to my students all the damn time, too.
  3. Hitting a person who doesn’t know it’s coming is typically considered the act of a coward.
  4. There’s few things more toxically masculine than a man feeling like he needs to defend the honor of his wife with violence. I’m confident that Jada Pinkett Smith could have responded to Chris Rock’s joke on her own without her husband’s violent response. Women don’t require men to defend them from unkind words, particularly when the chosen defense is violence. They are fully capable of putting jackasses in their place on their own. If someone had insulted Elysha and I had responded by striking the person, Elysha would be angry at me beyond measure, and rightfully so.
  5. Chris Rock made a callous, thoughtless joke. This happens when comedians do their jobs. They walk up to and sometimes past the line. They upset and offend. They go too far. The Oscars are famous for hosts taking jabs at the wealthiest and most powerful people on the planet. The White House Correspondence Dinner, which Donald Trump famously skipped because he, too, can’t handle being publicly insulted, is similar. Many, many Hollywood elites have been insulted by Oscar hosts as a part of the show. Rock was doing his job. Not well in that moment, perhaps, but that was no reason to assault him.
  6. Chris Rock’s joke may have been in poor taste, but his actions following the slap were astoundingly professional. He stayed calm, immediately made a joke, then he made another joke, then he dealt with a still shouting Will Smith, then he moved on to present the award for the winner of the best documentary without missing a beat. His joke may have been in poor taste, but everything he has done since that joke has been outstanding.
  7. When I saw this, my first thought was, “This is why airline personnel are being assaulted. People think that they can respond to discomfort with violence. It’s no different.” Will Smith was no better than some fool causing an airplane to turn around mid-flight because their mask is uncomfortable or the flight attendants won’t serve them a third beer.
  8. Smith should’ve apologize to the person he hit during his acceptance speech. Apologizing to the Academy but not to his victim was small and stupid. He apologized to Chris Rock the next day on Instagram, which seems about right for a person who hits a defenseless person on national television.