Sarah Stultz: The slap heard across the world at the Oscars

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

I didn’t watch the Oscars on Sunday, but I’ve been inundated with news articles about the event ever since on my social media. 

In case you haven’t heard, the talk of this year’s Oscars is not about the big hits on the red carpet, but instead about how actor Will Smith slapped actor and comedian Chris Rock on live television after Rock reportedly made a joke about Smith’s wife. 

The joke was directed at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has shaved her head because of a diagnosis of alopecia, a condition in which a person’s immune system destroys the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. 

At one point Smith is seen laughing and then before we know it, he walks up to the stage, slaps Rock in the face and then returns to his seat, yelling out that Rock should never say  anything about his wife again. 

I have always been a fan of Will Smith, more so in the last 15 to 20 years than in his early years, and I was shocked to hear what happened. 

I don’t think either actor acted appropriately.

I am disappointed to know that we live in a culture where jokes criticizing others are commonplace even though they can be hurtful. 

I was also disappointed that even though Smith could have potentially had one of the biggest nights of his career as he won his first-ever Oscar, it will forever be clouded as the day of this incident — a day he could have taken the high road and used it as an opportunity to educate about his wife’s condition. 

I have a close family member who has alopecia, and the condition can have a huge impact on a person. Whether you had long or short hair initially, it does not matter. It still can be devastating. 

In most people, including my family member, hair falls out in round patches, leaving bare areas. Even with short hair, the loss is visible. 

Hair loss over the entire scalp is less common but possible. 

In researching the condition, I have discovered that alopecia can affect people of all ages. While the hair usually grows back, it can fall out again. In some cases, this cycle will take place for years. 

Add on top of that the bullying and the insensitive remarks from people, and it can crush a person’s self-esteem, leading to anxiety and depression in some.

While some people are defending Rock in this case and others are defending Smith for standing up for his wife, I hope we can all look a little closer at this situation.

You may not have had a close tie to this joke, but we must draw the line because not doing so teaches our youth that this type of behavior is acceptable. 

Next time it will be about someone’s weight, their religion or the list goes on and on. 

It’s not OK to make fun of others, and equally as important, it’s not OK to respond in violence. 

We must teach our children this is not the way.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.