If you think it’s not easy being green, try being Black.
When Will Smith won the NAACP award for his film “Emancipation,” all heads in the living room turned towards me. What did I do?
Being Black in America, or at least in the America that I live in, means that you have the weight of behavior of all other people of color on your shoulders.
I have been Black most of my life except for a couple of years when I was a dancer at the Folies-Bergère in Paris when I was an “exotic.” An “exotic” has no color for the French, bless their hearts.
However, with the exception of those years, I was always told that my public behavior must be impeccable or else “they will blame it on the race.” I never stole candy from the candy store, I never snuck on the subway, I never lied about my age to get a cheap seat at the movie theater. When I was in college, I never had a beer or a joint. I was told that If I were to do something like that and get caught, people would “blame it on your race.” I have known since I was 4 years old and entering nursery school, that people would judge all African Americans by my behavior. If I should wet my pants, all of Harlem would get the blame for it. People would not get hired because I peed in my pants. “We’d like to hire you, but Abigail peed in her pants and since you and she are both Black, we can’t take the chance that you would also pee in your pants in your job as a nuclear scientist.”
Years ago, I was walking down Circuit Ave. when a man came up to me and said, “Your man got off.” It took me half an hour to realize that “my man” was O.J. Simpson and that he had been acquitted.
Poor O.J. His behavior cast a shadow on all Black people who, to most of the world, are monolithic.
So, how do we shoulder Will Smith’s behavior at the last Oscars this year? People are turning to me since both Will Smith, and I are the same color. Surely, I can explain his boorish public behavior.
I wish I could, but I can neither explain, rationalize, excuse, condemn nor condone such behavior. Well, that’s not true, I can condemn it, but…it looks bad for the race. I can’t explain it. I can’t even explain Clarence Thomas’s behavior. Once again, his behavior is “bad for the race.”
Will, what have you done to us? How can I find a way to explain your behavior so that it doesn’t look as if all Black men settle their differences through “hitting you upside the head”? It’s no use saying that it was the heat of the moment that caused you to lose your senses. We all saw you laughing at the joke the moment you heard it. Worse than that, Chris Rock possibly didn’t write it. Certainly, the script for the emcee goes through several channels before it goes on the air. There is a whole chain of writers, supervisors, and network lawyers who should have gotten slapped first. And, why a slap? You had boxing lessons when you were prepping for the Muhammed Ali story. You know how to land an uppercut. Hey…was this whole event something that was staged and then got out of hand? I sure wish it was a stunt gone wrong.
Would you have slapped Tina Fey for the same joke? How about Woody Allen? Would you have been man enough to slap “The Rock”? Had the emcee been Kevin Hart, he would have punched you in your privates and taken a bite out of your kneecap.
None of this bodes well for today’s BIPOC, Black Indigenous People Of Color. We don’t need you on our side. Your need to protect “Your Woman” is an insult to all women. We are not chattel; you don’t own us. We don’t need a caveman to safeguard us. We are strong, we are invincible, we can solve our own problems.
Your single action has taken the gender division, the racial division, the division between the rich and the poor, back at least 20 years.
You’re not a crime-riddled rapper from “the ghetto.” You gave up a career as an engineer to become a rapper, not a lot of “street” cred in that. You’re no Bobby Shmurda, yet now people all over the world are saying that you are, that your action is typical of the African American male when he gets upset, and what can you say to deny it?
Your mother must be so upset. You know she raised you better.
So, to sum things up, you showed the world what an asshole you are, but by doing that, you made the rest of us all look like assholes. Republicans are jumping up and down with joy talking about how violence is “in the Black man’s DNA” even the rich ones, even the movie star we trusted the most and thought “he’s different from the others.” Now we have proof that they are all the same.
It’s been a year and people are still talking about “the slap that was heard round the world.” The incident is getting almost as much ink as the war in Ukraine and none of the dignity.
Nobody is saying “What separates us from each other is not our color, but the way we think.”
Now, with what looks like many of the Black police officers in Minnesota brutally beating a Black man and getting caught on tape, people are saying: “That’s how they are. Black men solve their problems by beating up other Black men.” Then, they say: “Look at Will Smith.” Then they look at me and say “Do you know him?”
Thanks a lot, Will.