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Discussing 'the slap heard around the world' with Reggie Jackson and Dr. Lia Knox

Will Smith accepts the Actor in a Leading Role award for "King Richard" onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California.
Neilson Barnard
Getty Images
Will Smith accepts the Actor in a Leading Role award for "King Richard" onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards.

What was talked most about from the 2022 Academy Awards was what happened between Will Smith and Chris Rock. Smith's slap was dubbed “the slap heard around the world. Then on Friday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences banned Smith from all its events for 10 years.

What happened at the Oscars started a public conversation on race, gender and family around the globe.

Reggie Jackson, co-founder of Nurturing Diversity Partners, wrote a column for the Milwaukee Independent touching on several themes of race through the lens of what happened. He’s joined on Lake Effect by Dr. Lia A. Knox, co-founder of Blackspace, an organization normalizing therapy for Black and brown people here in Milwaukee. They both share more about the cultural importance of this event within the Black community.

Jackson starts by saying, "I just thought that some people were way over the top in terms of how they reacting and calling it such a violent act, and lumping all Black men into it — like, 'This makes Black men look bad,' no it made Will Smith look bad, it didn't make me look bad."

It's crucial to note that the public doesn't know the dynamics of Will Smith's, Chris Rock's and Jada Pinkett Smith's relationship, he adds.

Historically in America, Jackson says that Black men have been unable to protect their wives', girlfriends', daughters' and their mothers' honor. And when they have, in many instances, going back many years, Black men would risk their lives to do so, he says.

From top left to bottom right: Kobe Brown, Dr.Lia Knox and Reggie Jackson
Audrey Nowakowski
From top left to bottom right: Kobe Brown, Dr.Lia Knox and Reggie Jackson

"For all of American history, particularly going back to the days when we were enslaved for 246 years in this country, Black men did not have the ability to protect their families — deem it to protect themselves in many respects. Oftentimes, when they did, they were killed for simply doing what any person would do to protect their family," Jackson says.

Knox explains that the Black community is a collective, and this goes back since the days of slavery when slaves stuck together, behaved well and protected each other for safety purposes.

This isn't to say this altercation has given the Black community a bad name, because it hasn't; rather it reflects on one person, his choice and his behavior, she says.

"When one person steps out of that zone, or body of behavior, it's almost like we all have now become in danger of judgment, so on and so forth. So now, how do we bring ourselves back together? Well, it is one person's actions, as Reggie has stated, so with that, now, we have to speak about that as such, because one person did perform that behavior. It was a behavior that was inappropriate, whether it was in public, or in private," Knox says.

While the Black community has been stereotyped as violent, Jackson says instead the act of reconciling is more aligned with the Black experience.

Knox agrees and adds, "Let's talk about it, like two grown men, specifically to grown, wonderful, privileged Black men within our collective, not within our society, but within our collective. Let's work this out because we have young black men watching us, but mainly because I'm responsible for you and you're responsible for me."

Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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