The slap seen around the world. Will Smith slapped the cold piss out of Chris Rock during the 2022 Oscars ceremony. I saw it, yall saw it. By this time, we all know the story. Chris Rock made a G.I. Jane joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s haircut. Will promptly gets on stage, slaps Rock, then returns to his seat before shouting “keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth” not once, but twice. Chris gathers himself and attempts to move the show forward. There is a plethora of conversations around whether or not Will was justified. While I stand by Will standing up for his wife, I also believe there is another conversation at hand. There is something about the intersection of protection of Black women and holding Black men accountable.
Protecting Black women has been a hot button topic for a while now. Sen Cory Booker has received recent praise for the way he protected and made room for Ketanji Brown Jackson during her supreme court confirmation hearing last week. I believe that was a beautiful, emotional and verbal example of protection. Last night was a physical and albeit a more visceral form of protection.
In full transparency, I have failed my wife on several occasions when she needed me to protect and/or defend her from my friends and my family. It is a regret I carry to this day, but, as I move forward and have grown (some) I believe I’ll be ready for whatever the next situation may be. Therefore, I empathize with Will in this regard, as someone who has come up short in defense situations.
We are our brother’s keeper, but it seems that sometimes Black men struggle to hold our brothers accountable when it really matters… When is it time to check Black men for their lack of protection of Black women?
As I consider what it means to hold someone accountable; it may look like politely pulling ya mans to the side and talking to him, it may look like shouting explicatives from your seat, it might look like slapping the taste out of somebody mouth, but it always looks like sending a message that establishes a clear boundary. I believe this is where the hang up lies. Men not always, but often struggle when it comes to setting that clear and persistent boundary in Black women’s defense.
I think Black men fail to realize how much women want and sometimes need our protection, more so, they may need protection from us. I can reference multiple situations where we have seen Black women be accosted by a Black man and nobody comes to her aid. Instead, she is made a mockery of or her plight is belittled because the story isn’t clear or her assailant was rich, or popular, or powerful.
Black women are not damsels in distress. They can absolutely hold their own in any situation, but why are so many of us allowing them to tread in troubled waters alone when we have the power and position to provide support. Ketanji Brown Jackson didn’t need Sen Cory Booker to speak up, Jada didn’t need Will to slap Chris, but I know it is reassuring to have someone in your corner when your back is against the wall and you are facing adversity in any fashion. It affirms the faith they have in us as the men in their lives (romantically and platonically).
Listen, whether you agree or disagree with how Willard established a boundary, I can assure you the next person will think twice before mentioning Jada’s name with any lack of respect. It is less about the specific slap and more about the act of protecting and boundary setting. I believe that is the energy we need when defending Black women. I also believe that’s the energy we need for holding other Black men accountable for protecting Black women. Talk to ya mans on the slide or run the fade, but regardless Black men have to do better at holding each other accountable in the protection of Black women. If it's honest and true, they'll receive it, even if they say they didn't need it. Lastly, hold me too! I’m not perfect, this isn't a hypocritical post. I am not above criticism. Let's talk about it.