What you can do before it happens to you


Before you judge him harshly.

Before you say that would never be me.

Before you say that would be me.

Before you think someone is superhuman and incapable of losing it in public.

Before you think you know who people are without knowing what they are dealing with.

Recognize with all of the pressures of today… COVID, social media, war, racism, sexism, heterosexism, all of the isms, untreated trauma, parental pressures, work, family, school, money… this could be any one of us. It’s not that historically there hasn’t been really hard, stressful, dangerous and frightening times, that have frankly never ended for many people, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color, it’s the 24/7 access to the whole world’s trauma, stress and opinions that makes these unprecedented times.

This is not a straight-forward, I know exactly what I am looking at here situation. Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith took offense, jumped up, marched up those Oscar steps and cold slapped Chris Rock and then warned him to keep Jada’s name out of his mouth. Yeah, that’s what the optics served up, but what’s underneath all of this is so much more that is not known to the general public witnessing this first, second and third hand.

There are cultural norms operating here, general rules of conduct in the Black community especially in front of White folks, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider joining us in On The Matter of Race because it is too deep to explain here. If you know what I’m talking about, then “You know what I’m talkin’ about!”  There’s Black hair and the historical trauma placed on us, Black women in particular, working here. Jada has recorded a public journey of suffering from Alopecia and Chris Rock did a whole documentary on Black hair.

There are the pressures of being a high-level celebrity, a high-level Black celebrity at a “there’s a lot at stake” event. There’s the relationship between Chris and Will, details to which we are not privy to. There is untreated trauma that Will Smith has publicly admitted to in his book that he is still working on. There is the need to defend your wife and there is just the enormity of this event and all the underlying pressures that we know nothing about and are frankly not entitled to know.

Still judging? Well, violence is violence and it was uncalled for, violence never solves anything or whatever hill you are sitting on determined to be unmoved. Let me be clear, this so disturbed me Sunday night that I had a dream that Will Smith had me over to his home and talked much of this out with me and then Jada came in the room and poured her heart out. Will Smith has long been someone I admire, especially because love not violence is his mantra. He understands how he grew up and the reasons why folks who look like us choose violence as an answer, rightly or wrongly.

That message vibes with me, because I too understand why some folks choose violence and have had thoughts of answering with violence. I have been slapped and I have slapped when I was growing up. But what I am saying is that Will is no different than any of us humans. While you might not slap someone, your moment of acting out of character could be yelling at the top of your lungs at someone, cussin’ someone out, chasing after someone who cut you off on the highway just to give them the finger or any number of things that are completely opposite of who you know yourself to be.

I’ve heard parents say, “I can’t believe my child drove me to do something I swore I would never do.” I hear people complaining all the time these days about all of “the idiots” out there doing “crazy things” ever since COVID. It is easy enough to look at others and exempt ourselves from having ever been driven to the edge or being capable of acting out of character and exploding under the pressures, myself included. When and if that happens, I want to be there with grace for you instead of the gavel of judgement.

But before that happens, I want you to be prepared with a tool that can give you choice in the moment if you want it. To do that I need you to remember the word:


Breathe In – Four second breath in, Four second hold
Exhale Out – Four second release breath out. Repeat Four Times
Feel – Sit in what you are feeling and really feel it. We often ignore, avoid or run away from how we feel.
Own It – How is it making you feel? Admit it to yourself, it’s making me feel like I want to punch someone, it’s making me feel inadequate, etc.
Reflect – What will happen if I do this? Is that what I really want?
Excellence – What is the most excellent response here for who I am?

Listen, if the most excellent choice for you after doing all of this is to choose violence then I at least have to be grateful that you took the time to walk yourself through this tool, perhaps you will keep using it and widen your options. If you do this and make a different choice, then I am glad the tool helped you to see other options. Either way, we all have to be prepared for what happens on the other side of our choices.

For Will Smith, what’s on the other side is a lot and I hope he is ready to face it. I am rooting for him to come through this with some good lessons, self-forgiveness and the strength to continue to do well .

It’s what I hope for any of us humans.

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