Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock Has Nothing to Do With Black People

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

After actor Will Smith delivered the slap heard ’round the world, the chattering class was set ablaze with fiery debate over the altercation. Some defended Smith, claiming he was defending his wife Jada Pinkett Smith from a tasteless joke from comedian Chris Rock. Others contended that Smith should have handled the situation differently.


But, you will not be surprised to learn that others made the whole situation about race because things aren’t quite insufferable enough in 2022. However, at least some tried to add a voice of reason to the conversation.

On social media, many criticized Smith for losing his cool with Rock, insisting the incident would reflect poorly on the black community. This is not a new debate; it is an issue that crops up whenever a black person misbehaves publicly. However, Dr. Bernice King, the youngest child of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., chimed in and addressed the issue head-on, noting that anyone who suggested the altercation somehow represents black America “already thought Black people look bad.” She tweeted:

Anybody who thinks “Black people look bad” after the #Oscars already thought Black people look bad.

Respectability doesn’t cure racism.

Be Love, but please don’t think that a person who uses one moment to malign a whole group of people did not do so before that moment.


King continued, posting more tweets on Monday addressing questions from other users suggesting she condoned Smith’s actions. She reaffirmed her dedication to nonviolence:

“Condone” is such an intriguing word, often wreaking of ignorance or arrogance.

How about sharing what we commit to not being and to eradicating?

Because a lot of people are saying “I don’t condone violence,” but may only mean the type of violence they’re uncomfortable with.

Others on social media did the whole “What if Chris Rock had been white?” routine, another way to inject race into the matter. They suggested Smith would have been arrested if this had been the case. Others argued that he never would have slapped him in the first place if Rock had lost his melanin.


I don’t agree with King on much as she is decidedly left-of-center. Smith had no business getting physical with Rock even if his joke was inappropriate. It was a bad look.

Nevertheless, this has absolutely nothing to do with the race of the people involved. Anyone who pretends this somehow reflects badly on black men already doesn’t think much of us, to begin with. It was an altercation between two individuals, nothing more, nothing less. It isn’t as if anyone is looking at how Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry tried to talk some sense into Smith afterward and saying it somehow represents the entire black community.

Incidents like these are interesting fodder for conversations and debate and yes, even humor. But when people attempt to exploit it to deepen the already-deep division in America, it doesn’t do anyone any favors.


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