All Voices Matter: Chris Rock’s joke at the Oscar’s


Maya Silberman

In her revival of the weekly column, All Voices Matter, staff reporter Sydney Bishop offers her take on various social and cultural issues.

Sydney Bishop, Staff Reporter

The slap heard around the world has been the most talked-about event of this year’s Oscar award show. For those who aren’t aware, comedian and actor Chris Rock made a joke while hosting that compared actress Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of actor Will Smith, to GI Jane due to her lack of hair. 

It was evident in Jada’s reaction that she didn’t take the remark lightly, and Will Smith responded by walking on stage and slapping Rock across the face. Smith then shouted profanities at Rock from his seat shortly after. 

At face value, this was a demonstration of immaturity and a lack of decorum, but I want to present a deeper context to the situation. 

In 2018, Jada revealed that she has alopecia. She has detailed her journey of loving her new appearance on her show and other platforms, considering she made a difficult and abrupt transition from having near waist-length hair to being bald. 

Many people center their frustration around the fact that Chris Rock seemingly chose to make fun of Jada’s symptoms in front of all her peers, which was recently revealed as not a part of his original script

However, the issue with this display is so much bigger than Jada, Will or Chris. Jada belongs to many communities, specifically Black women, who saw through to the real root of this joke, misogynoir

Black women have been the butt of jokes since caricatures of them were made and presented on minstrel shows. Black women’s hair is also popularly a focal point of racist stereotypes and abasement. 

Jada Pinkett’s autoimmune disorder deprived her of a feature that many view as the center of their confidence and beauty, but for Black women, hair is all of these things as well as greatly criticized. 

Black women are told their whole life that they have nappy hair or that they’re “bald-headed.” Natural textures and short hair on Black women are historically seen as unfavorable, thus pressuring them to mimic eurocentric hairstyles in most professional or corporate settings. So, a joke about a Black woman’s hair at such a high-scale event as the Oscars is detrimental. 

The degradation of Black women in the comedy industry and society, in general, runs rampant and I think our community is saying enough is enough. People need to come to the defense of Black women way more often than in an instance like this, and it needs to be done the right way.

Chris’s remark at the Oscars is not the first and certainly won’t be the last time a joke is publicly made at a Black woman’s expense. It shouldn’t take an event like this to call attention to it. 

Black women are not your material. Like the legendary comedian, Katt Williams, once said, if you have to make fun of others to get a laugh, you weren’t funny in the first place.