Will Smith assaulted comedian and presenter Chris Rock on Oscar Night, and so far, he has gotten away with it.
Today, in America, violence is the answer for so many people who are triggered, frustrated or on the edge. We all know that comedians like Rock are paid millions of dollars to crack wise jokes about others, including celebrities in the audience of an internationally televised awards show. They pad pockets by making fun of others, even if that means making light of someone’s disability or health condition. Do they care about who they hurt? The cost could be the mental health of those caught at the end of a barb, like Smith’s celebrity wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Common decency means we should refrain from making fun of a person’s health struggles because it could cause that person more harm, emotionally and mentally. The result could send the target of shaming into a terrible rage, as the world witnessed from Smith on a televised world stage. And not knowing where a person is at mentally can be very harmful to the point of potentially driving a person to commit suicide. Many people are not as strong as they appear, or they may be going through a rough patch. It is best to err on the side of being respectful.
Even professional icons like now Oscar-winner Smith have issues. That’s why seeking the help of a trained counselor or psychiatrist should be supported and encouraged.
Alopecia is a disease of the body that attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss. It is not clear whether Rock knew that Smith’s wife suffered from the condition. In any event, healthy people have alopecia and it can strike at any age. If a parent has alopecia, a child has a greater chance of having alopecia. I have a dear friend of 16 years who has dealt with alopecia the entire time and have witnessed firsthand how it affects her quality of life.
Some people are forced to wear wigs daily, which is not good because the real hair beneath is not able to breathe properly and it’s uncomfortable. Having to take the wigs off in front of others can be embarrassing. Sporting a bald head in front of others is not something she feels comfortable with, either. During the 1960’s, when she grew up, it was frowned upon for women to sport a bald head and look masculine. Not everyone looks good with a bald head. Jada Pinkett-Smith looks marvelous with short hair.
Treatment for alopecia includes steroids, topical immunotherapy, and immunosuppressants that cause a great deal of uncomfortable side effects. Diseases associated with alopecia include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, thyroid disease, as well as nutritional deficiencies in vitamin D and iron. Alopecia affects quality of life causing social and psychological distress. Many people who have this disease experience depression, anxiety, insomnia and thoughts of suicide.
What is clear is that violence is no treatment for alopecia. Nor is it a treatment for being embarrassed by a stray joke at an award ceremony.
Both Rock and Smith used violence on Oscar night. Rock used violent words. Smith used an open hand.
Comedians should not be paid to make fun of people’s diseases or disabilities or health conditions.
However, should someone who suffers from a health condition be met with cruel jokes or acts of shaming, here are some ways to cope:
1. Let go of defensiveness.
2. Focus on something in your past that made you laugh.
3. Express your true feelings. Put your tormentors on notice, politely and patiently, and ask them to apologize and stop.
4. Smile. When you smile, you make others smile in response. Smiling takes your focus off conflict.
5. Finally, pray. Prayer leads to feeling grateful, righteous and respectful.
Jameszetta James, MJ, MSN, RN, ASC-BC, ACM-RN, is a nourish recruitment specialist at Rush University Medical Center and the CEO & founder of Just So Clothing and Scrubs. She is also a fellow with The OpEd Project.