I recognised Jada Pinkett Smith’s expression at the Oscars, Black women’s hair is too often the butt of jokes – TrendyNewsReporters

I recognised Jada Pinkett Smith’s expression at the Oscars, Black women’s hair is too often the butt of jokes

In the 24 hours since “The Slap” – the now well-analyzed confrontation between Will Smith and Oscars host Chris Rock – few seem to be focusing on Jada Pinkett Smith, whose alopecia was the subject of Rock’s jibe that led to the fallout. So instead of talking anymore about these two men, I am choosing to center on Jada, but also any Black women and girls whose hair has been subject to comments their entire lives.

We know what it is like to have our hair policed, to have our heads pet as if we were dogs. Whilst others discussed “The Slap”, Black women and girls across the diaspora discussed our identity once again being used as a punchline at one of the most-watched and talked about award shows in the world. This isn’t even the first time. Who can forget Giuliana Rancic stating that Zendaya looked like she smelt of patchouli oil and weed when she made her Oscar debut in 2015?

Rock’s tawdry words on Sunday may have been a tactless joke, but I instantly recognized the look on Jada’s face when those words were uttered. The palpable feeling of all the air leaving the room whilst your skin is on fire, all eyes on you waiting for you to react. I recognized that frozen smile, the roll of eyes. The clasping of hands while she continued to keep her composure.

But you could see the realization weigh heavy on her shoulders as it seemed that once again Black women were the butt of the joke. It was a sucker punch to the gut. A stab in the heart from not only a peer but someone who should know better.

You see Rock produced, starred, and narrated Good Hair, a documentary on the issue of how Black-American women have perceived their hair and historically styled it. He is quoted saying he felt compelled to make the documentary in response to his daughter asking, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?”.

So, when he made a joke about Jada’s hair he did so with knowledge of the dehumanization Black women face in society. Not only were the Oscars on the world stage, but they were also broadcast into the privacy of Black women’s homes who would likely have had to deal with their own GI Jane jokes if “The Slap” had not occurred.

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Yes, violence is never the answer, but I hope the whole incident will make people think twice before denigrating Black women in the future. So often “just a joke” is a euphemism for the microaggressions Black women and girls face on a daily basis.

People have always tried to dictate how we wear our hair – from the headwraps enforced on us due to now-defunct Tignon Laws to schools labeling Black hair “distracting”, “unruly” or “wild”. Rock’s joke may have been a throwaway comment to the majority of those who heard it, but to Black women, it was a true slap in the face.

Melissa Cummings-Quarry is an award winning commercial strategist and co-founder of Black Girls’ Book Club


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