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Will Smith’s Apology To Chris Rock Should Be Enough For Us To Stop Punishing Him For The Infamous Oscars Slap

Photo: DFree / Tinseltown / Shutterstock
Will Smith, Chris Rock

After Will Smith walked a whole mile to reach the stage where Chris Rock stood following his tasteless joke about Jada Pinkett Smith and smacked him, the world rushed in to give their hottest takes as professional psychologists and violence analysts.

How many internet philosophers does it take to cancel a Will Smith? Clearly, not enough, but the memes are golden and the discourse is tense.

The truth is, Will Smith shouldn’t be canceled at all and should actually be forgiven.

At around 8 p.m. last night, Smith issued a public apology to the Oscars audience, to Rock, to the Williams family, and to the Academy.

RELATED: Chris Rock Had A History Of Making Jokes About Jada Pinkett-Smith Before Will Smith’s Oscars Slap

It was heartfelt, he took accountability and balanced offering an explanation with acknowledging that there is no justification. In his words, Smith admitted fault and imperfection.

“Jokes at my expense are a part of the job,” he wrote in the Instagram post, “but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”

His publicist did a really good job with this one.

All jokes aside, we the people who — while not excusing his actions — understood where this strike came from, felt pleased to see the amount of humility and respect Smith showed in this apology, as well as his behavior after the incident.

We can put to rest the Team Will versus Team Chris debate, we can acknowledge that the situation was unfortunate on all sides and, most importantly, we can move on.

Sorry Judd Apatow, but Smith's hit was never going to kill Rock. And no, the slapping is not an avenue into the ongoing race debate that has haunted the Oscars.

The discourse around the infamous slap has been taut and has expanded into areas that are, to a point, outside of the issue at hand.

The incident doesn't have to be some major social justice lesson. This was one of those rare moments on live television where someone lost their cool at, unfortunately, the most high-profile Hollywood affair, and instantly felt the pushback.

RELATED: Will Smith’s Abusive Childhood & His Desire ‘To Protect People’ May Explain That Chris Rock Slap At The Oscars

Rock knew his joke was tasteless the moment he said it as the crowd booed him — we don’t make fun of someone’s illness, we’re better than that. 

We’re also better than slapping someone in front of tens of millions of people.

Actions speak louder than words, and while the slap was pretty audible, Smith's apology ought to be heard too.

There were multiple reports from attendees saying that during a commercial break after Smith stormed the stage, he was distressed and was comforted by his close friend Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry, and Bradley Cooper.

He likely knew the gravity of his actions then without all of us having to tell him about it.

During his acceptance speech for Best Actor, he admitted to feeling overwhelmed, shed tears, and said that he wished to be a “vessel” for love, not the hatred his actions carried.

Of course, his apology during his speech wasn’t flawless but his public apology later was a lot better in showing his sincerest regrets.

In it, he said that he “would like to publicly apologize” to Rock, suggesting that he had already or intended to apologize to him privately.

If cancel culture exists to hold people accountable, Smith already did it to himself the moment he stopped swearing at Rock and thought for a minute.

Perhaps, instead of worrying about Smith, everyone should be talking about the sex offenders and abusers that continue to be invited back to the Oscars — they don’t seem to feel any shame.

People are allowed to make mistakes — Smith made one that night and instantly felt regret, but we’re human.

We get angry on behalf of other people, we react emotionally, sometimes we hike our way up to the stage of the Oscars and smack one of our dear friends in the face for the joke they made — that doesn’t make it okay, but it happens. 

What we don’t do is take away someone’s chance to be the change they want to see.

RELATED: Chris Rock’s Jada Pinkett-Smith ‘Joke’ Went Too Far & Perpetuates Racist Ideas About Black Women’s Hair

Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.