Woke columnists claim Will Smith Oscars slap exemplifies 'anti-Black' system
'This is about a much larger systemic issue rooted in white supremacist culture'
One of the hot takes to emerge from Sunday night’s Oscars slapping scandal is that the real culprit is a racist system.
During the 94th Academy Awards, Best Actor nominee Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock after the latter joked about Smith’s wife. The moment was widely condemned, leading Smith to publicly apologize to Rock on Monday for his outburst.
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While many criticized Smith for the slap, some offered unique interpretations, such as blaming former President Donald Trump. However, a growing theory in some media circles suggested that the real issue could be a racist society.
On Monday, Forbes published an article by Janice Gassam Asare arguing the scandal surrounding the moment is primarily perpetuated by "the white gaze."
"There is a segment of the population that believes that although Smith was justified in his anger, he shouldn’t have behaved that way in front of ‘mixed company.’ Many of us are socialized to believe that there is no time and place for Black anger or emotion, especially not in front of non-Black people," Asare wrote. "By saying that Will Smith shouldn’t have reacted that way because of how he will be perceived by the largely white audience is the perpetuation of the white gaze."
Forbes doubled down on this perspective with another piece on Tuesday titled "While Talking About Will Smith’s Behavior, Don’t Forget To Also Talk About The System That Helped Create It." Contributor Maia Niguel Hoskin wrote that concern over Smith’s behavior is a "systemic issue" rooted in white supremacy.
"This is about a much larger systemic issue rooted in white supremacist culture designed to police the behavior of Blacks amongst the who’s who in Hollywood and beyond. Respectability politics suggest that equity and fair treatment require that Black people — both inside and outside of Hollywood — conduct ourselves in a manner deemed acceptable to whites," Hoskin wrote.
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The Hollywood Reporter’s Eisa Nefertari Ulen made a similar claim on Tuesday suggesting "the well-documented norms, policies and images that have damaged Black people" in the Academy could have contributed to that night.
"Rather than punitively discipline Will Smith for his violence, the Academy and the Hollywood machine should take this opportunity to reflect and recognize their part in fomenting it," Ulen wrote.
A Guardian opinion piece took the claim one step further by suggesting that the media outrage itself was "rooted in anti-Blackness."
"I also find it hard to believe that the same white audiences who consume violence against Black people on screen to an almost fetishistic degree (and are quite happy to have the Academy reward these gratuitously violent projects year after year) are so distraught about an open-palm slap," Tayo Bero wrote. "Again, this kind of performative pearl-clutching is only ever reserved for Black men who mess up."
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Some media pundits excused the slap based on Smith attempting to defend his wife.
"Given everything going on in the world, I just cannot bring myself to be outraged by this," New York Times contributing opinion writer Roxane Gay said Tuesday.
Fox News’ Yael Halon contributed to this report.