I love the fact that Black folk can debate, joke, and offer differing opinions on Chris, Will and Jada with each opinion including cultural insights that are valid.
The differing opinions reaffirm that we are not group-think or monolithic, and that there are cultural nuances that support all sides. The differences too run the gamut of defense of Black women, knowing what to /not to joke about, handling one’s business, mouths writing checks your ass can’t cash, respectability, and what is comedy.
It is also obvious most white folk have a limited understanding of Black culture thus see the event through their cultural lens- you saw it most in the “Call the police, drag him out & arrest him” crowd’s reflex to *their cultural norm of depending on the most violent anti-Black gang to show up and do what they do so Martha can again be comfortable that “order” is restored & small Indy all-white movies win movie of the year again.
For those who abhor violence – and full disclosure, I am in that group – who believe Will should have yelled from his seat or on stage, walked out, or handled the situation afterwards and off-camera, we are right.
For those who believe Will admirably actively defended his wife Jada against another verbal attack by Chris – this one about her very serious alopecia diagnosis – you are completely right.
And for those who believe in the immutability of comedians to joke about anyone or anything – you are white – because Black folk do not ascribe to that part of your culture.
Never have, never will.
Chris knows that and flaunted it because he associates with high profile white comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C. K. who believe that. He crossed a black line in the sand that Black folk were able to see and hear no matter whose side of the disagreement we fall on.
But that black line is too dark for white folk to see.
Chris learned that making a documentary about Black women’s hair is celebrated. One in which he specifically learned about alopecia, in fact. But joking about a Black woman’s medically-induced loss of hair to global audiences is not okay. And it wasn’t okay when he did it the last time.
Chris also should, though, be appreciated for not escalating in the moment, and then not doing what so many white folk said he should do: Press charges.
I am glad he took that route and taught white America that lesson.
I feel bad for each of them, differently. They’ll make up of that I’m certain. They have known each other for many years and there will be a reconciliation. Will has already apologized, releasing a statement this week. I am certain Chris will issue a statement as well. Given time, they will work it out.
I don’t know that Jada will make up with Chris though and I don’t know that she should.
He has singled her out before and this time went extra low. Jada didn’t deserve that. She’s not his or any comedian’s punchline target. There were so many obvious joke targets there, as usual, that he had plenty of obvious jokes available. In an audience full of nominees, he chose to go low on Jada who wasn’t nominated but there to celebrate her husband’s nomination.
That he chose Jada again seems malicious intentional and far too easy and lazy for a comedian with Chris’ experience.
That to me is most disturbing and maddening. Why choose her? Black women have enough to deal with and, not for nothing, Black men are the ones dealing them the daily fuckery.
Chris thought he was punching down but he was punching above his pay grade.
Will had the same willful blind spot as we all saw him laugh first, see Jada’s anger, and only then act. At his age with all those years married and all those red table talks yet his first response was joining in on the joke.
That is perhaps why his three reactions were so over-the-top and disproportionate:
1. Stage slap.
2. Shouting from seat.
3. Emotional and rambling acceptance speech.
He’s no paragon of virtue in his acts. Though others have said that his laugh was a reflex, a muscle memory response of being a celebrity on camera at a big event. And that his laugh was the quiet nervous laugh of confusion that precedes an angry emotional outburst. Perhaps.
I don’t presume to know how Jada feels today, or the Williams’s sisters who again experienced a very public moment of achievement and recognition overtaken by other celebrities, but I can reasonably guess that they all feel some type of way.
Black women aren’t your joke topic, aren’t your mules, and aren’t your repository of ethereal and undefined magic.
They are, though, capable of being centered without Black men or white folk intruding on their peace and joy.
Maybe that’s my biggest take away.
Folk still thinking Black women are there for their entertainment when in fact Black women want all of us to leave them the fuck alone.
© 2022 by Myron J. Clifton.
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Myron J. Clifton is slightly older than fifty, lives in Sacramento, California, and is an avid Bay Area sports fan. He likes comic books, telling stories about his late mom to his beloved daughter Leah, and talking to his friends.
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