“We were just talking about it.”
That’s what Lateef, a barber at University Barbershop in the Vine City neighborhood of Atlanta said when queried about his thoughts onthe Will Smith Oscars slap. It’s been over a week since the incident, but many people are talking about it like it just happened yesterday.
For men, “barbershop talk” is the time to gather around to discuss and debate the hottest topics around the world without judgment. Go to any other barbershop, and Smith and Rock are probably still at the top of the conversation. Lateef told rolling out what his first reaction was when seeing the slap.
“First, I said what the f—,” Lateef said. “I kind of understand all [the] parties involved, but violence obviously ain’t the answer.”
A.J., a regular client at University Barbershop, shared his thoughts as well.
“It’s sad that the whole world had to come together to see two Black men do that,” A.J. said. “For Chris Rock, I think a lot of times as a nation and as people, we get caught up in this whole freedom of speech, but one thing my dad always raised me to believe is you’re going to be held accountable for what comes out of your mouth.”
Many people have taken one side or the other in the Smith-Rock incident, but Lateef says that he thinks both men were wrong in their actions during that night.
“I think Will Smith took advantage of it, and as far as Chris Rock, I feel like as a man he needs to see that somebody is approaching his space and protect himself by any means necessary. Will is bogus, but Chris Rock needs to watch his mouth, obviously.”
On April 5, there were reports that Jada Pinkett Smith said that she wishes Will hadn’t slapped Rock, but the couple agrees that he overreacted.
“At the end of the day, since it’s about protecting each other and protecting Black women, in particular, [Jada] has to be able to protect Will in that situation,” Lateef said. “You got to pull his coattail.”
“At this point, she needs to stay out in front of the cameras,” A.J. said. “Just stop talking. If you want to protect me, stop me from going up there. As my wife, you’ve seen that look on my face when I’m about to do something reckless. Jump up and say ‘honey, it ain’t even worth it right now.’ ”
Lateef offered advice to comedians that he hopes will prevent confrontations like this from happening in the future.
“Change up the comedy a little bit and protect each other,” Lateef said. “Everybody protect each other. Don’t use this platform to be knocking each other down.”