Jada Pinkett Smith is a beautiful woman.
Through the poor writing and/or imperfect execution of “the joke”, the Oscar writers and Chris Rock missed a glorious opportunity to lift a Black woman up. I mean, c’mon. It is not everyone who can look that attractive with a brush cut. To suggest that Jada (at age fifty!) could even be considered for the titular role in a remake of the iconic Demi Moore film could have been a huge compliment.
But that was not how things went down.
Everyone hates Chris. Or Will. Or both.
I am not here to take sides. I am most assuredly not here to whitesplain this event. I know my lane. And it is inner child and trauma healing. What I saw happen on Sunday night was a man triggered at the thought of his wife being ridiculed in front of a roomful of their peers and an audience of millions over her medical condition. Now, you can scoff at alopecia as non-life-threatening, but don’t do so until you’ve looked at the cultural trauma that Blacks have endured relative to their hair.
I don’t pretend to know the cultural and historical roots associated with African hairstyles – though I have just picked up Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana Byrd and Lori L. Tharps to learn more – but I don’t need to know the minutiae just yet to recognise its impact. Black people’s hair was and continues to be weaponised in much of the United States.
When Africans were kidnapped from their homelands and forced into slavery, they had their heads shaved. After the Emancipation, Black women were still compelled by law to cover their hair with a scarf. Even today there exists and institutional bias against Black hair where job offers are taken away from the woman with the dreadlocks, Chastity Jones, and schools penalise kids for having an afro, as in the case of Jenesis Jones.
“If you are Black, you are other. If you are other, you are less than.” That’s been the narrative for generations. And it is easy to see how it could be the basis for complex PTSD for an entire community.
That brings us back to The Incident. I’m not here to judge Will Smith’s behaviour. I want to look at it from a different perspective. I’d like to begin by saying that any time a person has a reaction that is significantly greater than the stimulus that prompted it should (objectively) warrant, the person has very likely been triggered by past trauma.
I was going to qualify that as, “A reasonable person,” but that’s exactly the point.
A reasonable person would not have smacked the s#!t out of Chris Rock.
Getting triggered elicits a fight or flight response. Physiologically, the body releases a rush of adrenaline. Fats and stored glucose flood the system with extra energy. The heart rate goes up to push these things through the system faster. Breathing speeds up getting more oxygen to the brain, which heightens all of the senses, and to the muscles as the person prepares to either fight or run like hell. Either way, that person’s blood goes rushing to the extremities in preparation. There’s not enough blood getting to the higher functions of the brain, the thought processes that would stop a mama bear from fighting off a cougar threatening her cub, that would stop a man from jumping into a frozen lake to rescue his dog, that would stop a reasonable man from slapping another man across the mouth.
Reason played no part in what happened.
Does knowing this excuse Will Smith’s actions? Absolutely not.
So, where does this leave us? We are in the land of opportunity! That which triggers us shows us where our healing needs to happen.
I heard Will Smith’s words, “Love will make you do crazy things,” and I know people all over the socials have jumped on that as the same rationale used by domestic abusers. And they’re right. I hope they and Will Smith and any of us who have ever seen red can and choose to get the necessary healing.
If any good is to come from this very public incident, I pray that it furthers the dialogue surrounding generational and cultural trauma, not as a way to blame, but as a way to heal.
It is past time to shatter this pattern of CPTSD.
If you get triggered, whether it’s to rage, tears, anxiety, or something else, I’m here to help. You’re not alone. Book your free sixty-minute no-pitch session today.
Based out of Calgary, Canada, Christie Morden is a Mental Health Coach specializing in midlife transformation through inner child and trauma healing. Faced with stagnation in her own healing, she believes hypnotherapy was the missing puzzle piece and built her practice around it. She branded her style of coaching Quicknotherapy, a signature blend of traditional client-centered coaching and hypnotherapy techniques which have been found to be both more effective and more efficient than traditional psychotherapies. Christie's clients experience dramatic results in a single session and many issues resolve within three.