Will Smith's Slap Of Chris Rock Was Wrong. Period.

Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock
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Photos: YouTube\Screenshots

As the fallout from Will Smith's slap of Chris Rock continues, with the Academy saying they asked Smith to leave after the assault but that he allegedly refused, which is disputed, this disgraceful episode should now be used as a teachable moment. Smith himself has an opportunity here to make amends for his terrible actions.

There is much that should be discussed here, hopefully for the good of others particularly for men and boys.

First though, this should be the starting point unequivocal statement: Will Smith was wrong. Period.

Assaulting somebody for words they utter from their mouths can't be justified. Especially, in a country where the First Amendment is explicitly exalted to protect freedom of expression and free speech.

In fact, under American law, there are only a few exceptions where speech can be prosecuted including: if one makes slanderous or libelous statements, if one gives perjured testimony that causes or could cause legal harm of a civil or criminal nature against those that are being lied about, inciteful speech, obscene or pornographic speech (in certain contexts) etc.

There is no law that justifies assaulting someone because you don't like a joke, even if it hurts your feelings or is in bad taste. That is why it is troubling that some want to make excuses for Smith's out-of-control conduct at Sunday's Oscar ceremonies.

A particular rationale that seems to be favored by apologists for Smith is the argument that he reacted to protect his wife—as he was unable to do for his mother who was reportedly abused by Smith’s father, who apparently abused him too. This excuse just doesn't cut it.

Should people who were abused emulated behaviors like their abusers? The assumption and insinuation some are making, who talk about Smith's alleged abusive father, is that Smith by slapping Rock, because his wife was displeased with the joke, was behaving less like his father because he was trying to protect his wife. That conclusion just makes no sense. In fact, the opposite seems true.

Let's ask ourselves this question: if any of several other comedians had made the same joke, would Smith have reacted the same way? When one looks at the cool, calm, way in which Smith walked onstage to deliver the slap, didn't he seem fairly confident in calculating Rock wouldn't fight back?

The topic of bullying is a serious one in America. Bullying manifests itself in many ways.

An aspect of bullying was evident in Smith's behavior toward Rock. There was a smugness Smith showed right after the assault, including when he sat back down to launch verbal insults at Rock.

If anything, Smith behaved more like his allegedly abusive father.

Now, it is surely understandable that a husband wants to protect his wife. The only scenario here where what Smith did would've been right was if his wife was being physically accosted. But you cannot assault someone just because you don't like something they say, even to your beloved wife who you adore.

This should be simple enough. And it should apply to everybody, even famous Hollywood a-list stars.

If one didn't know better, by the arguments some are making, you would think Chris Rock is the one to be reproached. What did he do wrong besides, maybe, tell an arguably bad joke?

Smith should not only be doing a face-to-face apology to Rock, but he should also be thanking him for not pressing criminal charges and taking him to the cleaners in a court case. Smith wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on. The video would make it a slam-dunk decision.

On Sunday, Chris Rock was the one who behaved like a professional, which is likely why some people had a hard time believing the incident wasn’t staged. He even instantaneously made jokes about himself being slapped, in real time. How many of us wouldn't have struck back if it was us in that situation? And, given the fact that Smith is himself a comedian, Rock was probably shocked that a fellow comedian reacted in such a violent way to a joke.

Even assuming, Rock was aware of Smith's wife's alopecia issues when he told the joke, how does that make him the bad guy? Why was Rock’s joke worse that the joke actress Regina King reportedly made hinting at the supposed sexual state of openness in the Smiths' marriage?

It’s alright to make jokes about their sex life, and who they might be doing the nasty with beneath the sheets, but a joke possibly about a hair balding problem, that was made public, is out of bounds? Hollywood is really weird. How else do you explain the standing ovation the teary-eyed Smith received after the assault?  What kind of moral code are these folks living by? Well, perhaps that's an oxymoron.

The other thing that should be stated here is that we should expect better than this from Will Smith. Why? Well, for one thing, he has crafted a goody two shoes image of himself over the years as someone who was unlike others.

In his Instagram apology to Chris Rock, he said, “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.”

The last part is important, since before Sunday Smith was largely seen already as “the man I want to be” because of the way he has projected himself.

Smith’s Instagram apology although late should be the starting point for him to atone for what he did. Despite his unjustifiable actions, there is an opportunity here for Will Smith to do much good.

Smith should first reach out to Chris Rock and do a face-to-face apology. He should then further redeem himself by speaking out against the kind of abusive assault that he perpetrated Sunday. He should use the medium of television which launched his career as an actor to get that message out particularly to men and boys. It would also be very impactful if he could get the victim who he assaulted to help him in this worthwhile endeavor.

If Will Smith is able to do this, it would go a long way in repairing the damage he did when he assaulted Chris Rock.

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