My Advice to White People on what They Should say about the Situation at the Oscars

Dear White People,

We all know what happened at the 2022 Oscars. Everyone is talking about it. When it first happened, in real time, I recalled posting on Facebook, “What just happened?” At first, I thought it was a skit and then soon after, I realized it wasn’t. All of those details don’t matter in this moment. What matters is the advice I am giving today to my White friends, allies and White people everywhere. Advice on how you should respond to what happened between Chris Rock and Will Smith at the 2022 Oscars.

Here’s my advice on what to say or do:

Nothing

Be Quiet

Do not comment

Do not have an opinion

Truth be told, I know you can’t help yourself, your mere Whiteness entitles you to center yourself in the midst of every situation in today’s world, but today I am asking you to do different and here’s why:

Yesterday, March 29, 2022, coincidentally, President Joe Biden signed the Emmett Till Anti-lynching bill into place. A bill that was 200 years in the making. 200 years? Can you believe it? Yes I can! You may now ask well what does Emmett Till have to do with Will Smith and Chris Rock? Please allow me to make the connection for you. Emmett Till if you are not familiar, traveled one summer as a 14 year old boy from Chicago to Mississippi to visit family. While Emmett Till was there, a White woman accused him of rape. As a result of this accusation, a group of “valiant, righteous” White men did not hesitate to go after Mr. Till and lynch him in the name of protecting a woman.

Shall I go on?

I wish this was an isolated incident in history but it was not. All throughout history, White women have been protected by White men who have chosen to enact violence upon Black bodies in the name of protecting their women. Throughout history, many White women have notoriously weaponized their tears. Weaponized their tears to silence women of color, to enact acts of violence upon communities of color and to ultimately get their way.

What’s different though is how these historical incidents have been portrayed. These incidents have been portrayed as noble, righteous, valiant, courageous. They are idolized and immortalized, so much so that we have hundreds of movies and thousands of stories written about them.

Do you see the connection now? Do you see how with history, my advice to you is that you have no right to comment nor cry down this incident? Did you cry down every other incident in history where a White woman’s tears weaponized a White man to commit acts of violence? If you didn’t, then don’t now!

With these thoughts, I will end by quoting Nelson Maldanado-Torres in his “Outline of Ten Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality” who says:

“Colonized women are particularly vulnerable as they are not protected by the codes of femininity in the first place, codes that allow for violence but that also extends some protections. Violence towards the bodies of colonized women can be seen as an affirmation of masculinity that does not carry major consequences.”

Truth be told, I wonder had Jada been White and Will also been White, would we be hearing different narratives being echoed? Would a different story be told altogether?

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Shanya Gray

I am an anti-racist, black/bi-racial educator, activist and therapist. I seek to bring equity awareness/education and ways of healing for people of color.