TW: this article features bullying of black disabled people and disabled people being told they would be better off dead.
By now the whole world has seen the clip of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. Chris Rock made a “joke” about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss by referencing the 1997 movie G.I. Jane starring Demi Moore. Demi famously rocked a buzz cut for the role, however, Jada’s haircut isn’t for a movie role.
Jada has alopecia which is an autoimmune disease that attacks your hair follicles, this causes hair loss.
Many who deal with this disability have experienced different levels of hair loss. Jada came out in 2018 to announce that she was diagnosed with it and with the encouragement of her daughter Willow, she decided shaving her head would be better.
Hair in the black community is a very important topic. Ironically, Chris Rock made a documentary about the politics of black women and our hair in a film titled “Good Hair” that was released in 2009.
For centuries black women have been shamed for our hair and how it naturally grows out of our heads. Long hair is often equated to femininity, looking at this from a black woman’s perspective I’m sure Jada felt insecure about the hair loss. But with the help of her family, she was able to see her beauty even with a shaved head.
Now let’s jump to Sunday’s Oscars. Chris Rock makes an ableist joke about Jada and how she looks like G.I. Jane. The camera pans to Jada and you immediately see the pain and humiliation.
Black women have always been humiliated for fun, especially in Hollywood, but even more so have disabled black women. Will notices the pain in his wife and swiftly gets on stage and slaps Chris. After sitting back down he tells Chris to keep Jada’s name out of his f*cking mouth.
As a fellow disabled black woman, I have rarely had people stand up for me. In college as I would travel around campus in my wheelchair and I would repeatedly hear the same white guys scream cripple, as I went past them.
This made me feel unsafe and reminded me that I was different. Not only was I in a wheelchair but I was one of just a handful of black students on campus. Once I told a guy on an online dating app that I wasn’t interested and he told me I should have died at birth since I was ugly and a disgusting abomination.
Black women have a long history of not being protected and that’s even more true when you add a disability into the equation. It’s time that we do start protecting disabled black women and standing up to ableists. If a comedian has to make dated and cruel ableist jokes to be funny, they’re probably not good at their job. It’s 2022 and we should not be the butt of your jokes.
We are human and we have feelings. The abled black community should protect disabled black women just as much as able-bodied women especially since we can’t defend ourselves.
Black disabled women have enough to deal with, why continuously add more ableism to our lives. I can guarantee you that Chris is fine.
The real victim in this situation is Jada.
She had to sit in a room full of her peers while a black man, made fun of her disability for a few laughs. I could see her hurt, the insecurity, and the anger on her face. All that she worked for to gain back that confidence was stepped on by a black man who should have been there to uplift and support her.
Protecting black women isn’t just a hashtag, it’s something everyone should do. But when you do protect black women please do not leave us disabled black women out of the picture. Not only do we deal with misogyny and racism but we are always exposed to ableism.
Comedy should never be about a person’s disability. It’s an act of violence, it’s verbal assault, It’s ableism. Being a black disabled woman in this world is already so scary. We’re prone to so much danger.
Why make ableist jokes a part of the norm. It’s time we change the norm and start respecting and protecting black disabled women.
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