March 2022: Smacktalk
Hi Rajiv, I wondered also about Smith's initial reaction. He sure seemed to be laughing until Mama showed him that his reaction was wrong.
As I read your post, I kept thinking of Martin Niemöller. Are comedians the canaries in the coal mine or our last line of defense?
On a side note, I was amazed that Rock didn't do anything to defend himself. He had his arms behind him.
As the dust settles, I am still in shock. What have we come to?
As always, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! I hope America finds its way. 99.99% of people commenting on this atrocity (like me, for example) could never imagine the vulnerability and courage it takes to be a comedian. I have no idea where your profession will evolve to, but I agree comedians are critical in our society. We learn so much by our mind being open through observations and viewpoints articulated through humor. I am sure it taps into a different physical part of our brains that engage and therefore allows for new connections. Growth. Empathy. Understanding. Wonder. Support.
We’re here for you, whatever help could look like. No idea what that could be. We need you on stage. Praying for your physical, emotional and psychological safety as you process all of this and your amazing profession, undoubtedly, moves forward.
Thank you for sharing this; it completely encapsulates what has been going on in my mind. "The damage had been done" and "the effects on cancel culture on our livelihood and now our lives" (paraphrased). These were the two key shared thoughts that have been giving me chills ever since the incident took place. It was not really the slap, but the reaction that gets a chill run through your spine.
This incident has caused damage not only to free speech but also to the dignity of women (because a man came to fight for his woman and that's being celebrated) along with that I bet you many people in their minds will blanket label the African American community as being violent because the few that are being seen as representations of the community spoke in favor of the violence and the voices of those who spoke against were suppressed or "shadow banned".
I am having a hard time articulating all these emotions but coming from India of the early 2010s and having raised in the middle east in the 90s and 2000s where I have seen how a little comment against a religion or a divine figure or prophet or a judge or a politician can land you in jail or worse get one killed so there is this sense of disappointment and sadness because a country like America where I thought my right to speech would be protected is slowly becoming the places I left and may be heading to something worse.
What really worries me is the repercussions of this in the entire world. Everyone around the world looks to America for validation and inspiration, and this incident just justified many barbaric ways as response to free speech, and that is what scares me the most.
If you have read through here, then I must say thank you and remember that I may or may not agree with you or your fellow comedians on certain topics during or outside your stand up events but I sure will always stand to defend your right to free speech (as long as it does not incite violence)
Nicely written, really enjoyed the whole article. Smith’s are public personalities and them or anyone else has no right to be violent. I don’t think Will Smith would slap if it were to be Steven Spielberg, Bob Hope, George Carlin or any other big names. Rock, perhaps, not equal in stature or money to Will Smith (per WS mindset?) and thus got Fresh Prints…
Your words are riveting and on point. I, too, often feel a sense of despair and hopelessness over the lack of civility and decency in our society. But then we have people like you, those who care, those who think, and those whose engagement makes us all just a bit happier. Kudo's to you and I'm glad to call you friend.
I think that it’s important that Will Smith is made aware of the consequences of his actions … I think his Oscar should be rescinded. His behavior is NOT acceptable! I’m even more alarmed by his son who tweeted “that’s how we do it”…showing that he thinks his father was perfectly justified in assaulting someone. You wonder what this entitled kid would deem appropriate behavior in his alternate universe! With parents whose behavior is questionable at best, grouped with oodles of money and privilege, can’t really blame him for being messed up!
Really appreciate this piece Rajiv. Keep up your excellent work.