The Problem With Perspective

It is my sincere hope that this will be the last, and hopefully most unique and least polarizing perspective on the “Slap Heard Around the World,” and the truth is, it isn’t about Will Smith or Chris Rock at all.

It’s much more about us; and not in that pandering, drivel-soaked way most are using this moment as a way to point out that we, the people, are to blame for everything because we’re an angry society, we worship celebrities, we’re all snowflakes, we’ve demonized masculinity, blah blah blah.

Thinking about this more in-depth, and, as I often do, trying to find the angle no one is taking, I stumbled upon something that can’t be ignored.

While nothing other than childish rage defends Will Smith’s behavior, we are told that Chris Rock’s joke was offensive for three potential reasons as follows:


  • Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes a person’s hair to fall out.


  • Whether Rock knew about the alopecia or not, it is well-known in the black community that you don’t make fun of an African American woman’s hair; there’s 400 years of history to explain why, and Chris has daughters himself. He should have known better.


  • We should be past commenting on and making fun of, peoples’ appearances.


As a lifelong fan of standup comedy, I have seen how it has devolved lo the past many decades. And devolving is what it is doing; people want to tell you that we’re more enlightened when we stop making fun of certain things and people, but the opposite is true. We will reach true enlightenment when each of us as individuals is comfortable and confident enough with ourselves that the words, thoughts, and judgments of others are truly meaningless to us, regardless of whether or not other people agree with them or laugh at them.

For now, let’s just focus on the first of the three arguments, which is Jada having alopecia, as a new refrain was born this weekend vis a vie her condition.

While it is true that perspective is almost always helpful, it can be taken way too far as a dismissive argument.

Telling someone who just got fired that “people in Ukraine are dying,” is far from helpful. While it is true that the 6-week-long war is an atrocity on mankind, it’s not the reality of the person who just lost their job in America and doesn’t know how they’ll pay rent this month. It’s just not reasonable to ask all of us to happily accept every horrible thing by realizing that somewhere, something more horrible is happening to someone else.

On the other hand, it was a cold slap in the face (pun intended) to many of us when 8-year-old Scarlett called the show last week to explain in the most intelligent, jovial, and eloquent way, her battle with Leukemia. In that moment, a lot of us realized that being annoyed at the inconvenience of an oil change that day, or upset that Starbucks got our order wrong was perhaps, a bit self-centered and out of focus. Such perspective is good, positive, and welcome at times when it truly teaches us to stop getting bent out of shape over the small stuff.

That’s the key; identifying what is, in fact, “small stuff,” while making sure we allow room for both understanding and intolerance. Understanding in the sense that what may seem small to some is truly devastating to others. Intolerance as in not allowing snowflake drama queens to define two cisgender adults using pronouns in a private conversation they overhear as “devastating.”

That said, the newest trope is that Jada should thank her lucky stars that all she has is alopecia. To paraphrase one commentator I heard this weekend, “if you are so lucky in life as to have your only medical problem be your hair falling out you should just say, “thanks, God.”

Another put it more bluntly as such: “Alopecia…your hair falls out, it’s not like Leukemia.”

Now, for starters, we hardly know what, if any, additional medical challenges Jada may have and chooses to keep private. More importantly, yes, it would be great if she, or any other person suffering from alopecia, was able to embrace the “Hey, it could be worse,” attitude, but to dismiss entirely the literal suffering of some for what others deem to be dismissive reasons, is a dangerous slope to go down…and a never-ending one. In fact, if we are going to use the “someone else always has it worse,” argument, then there is literally only one person suffering on Earth.

Model Winnie Harlow has something called vitiligo, which the Mayo Clinic describes as a disease that causes loss of skin color, generally in patches, which on a woman of color could be devastating. Harlow has proudly embraced the changes in her body, widely quoted as saying that it’s just “another difference, like freckles and big hair,” which is beyond admirable, and should be celebrated, but shouldn’t be forced on Jada or anyone else.

As always, the answer lies in moderation. While we can’t insist that Jada become comfortable with her hair loss, we can absolutely assert that she should be doing whatever she can to feel better about it and herself. If she doesn’t like her shaven head, which many of us find sexy, then she should wear a wig so that her condition is less noticeable. Ultimately, I’d love that she find herself gorgeous as is, but she needs to get there; as so many do.

Fat people need to either go to the gym, get some surgery, or be comfortable with the fact that they’re fat and people are going to make fun of them. The same is true of so many others that can’t do anything about their “condition,” like short people.

In the end, humanity is cruel, and learning to deal with it is part of life. You can’t slap everyone that says something that upsets you or someone you love, but you can have the perspective that while someone, somewhere has it worse, your problems matter, and hopefully you have the support system you need to battle those challenges. Getting offended and upset at others who mock you is wasted energy and will suck the life from your very soul.

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