Jada Pinkett Smith made some noise this weekend following the 2016 Oscars nominations announcement and so far, not everyone likes it.
Jada posted a video early yesterday morning, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, in which she suggested that people of color boycott the Oscars due to the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations. “The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, to invite whomever they choose and now, I think it’s our responsibility to make the change,” she said. She proposed that people of color create their own programs that “acknowledge us in ways that we see fit” that are “just as good” as awards shows like the Oscars, asserting that people of color are “dignified” and “powerful” and do not need to “beg for acknowledgement.”
Janet Hubert, the actress who used to play Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, posted a video later that day, slamming Jada for her words. Janet addressed Jada directly, asking her if Will has “a mouth of his own with which to speak” and pointing out that “there’s a lot of sh-t going on in the world.” You can watch Janet’s three-minute video here:
Janet represents a large pool of people who disagree with Jada’s stance, and while she makes some valid arguments, there are three things in particular that she seems to have gotten wrong.
Firstly, Jada is Will’s wife. Of course she can speak up for him. When a husband speaks up for his wife, we applaud him and think it’s charming and sexy. But when a woman does the same thing for her husband, people immediately want to silence her, forgetting that she has a right to do so. It also trivializes Jada’s argument to say that she’s making it all about Will when really, she’s speaking up for Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Samuel L. Jackson and the Straight Outta Compton cast, too. It is that deep. Secondly, Jada isn’t demanding that all people of color boycott the Oscars. She’s peacefully suggesting that they take a stand along with her. She said that she won’t be attending or watching this year, but she’s allowed to do that and she’s doing it without forcing anyone to follow in her footsteps. Lastly, Janet’s point that there are other things going on in the world that perhaps deserve more attention doesn’t hold a lot of weight because, well, there are always going to be other things going on in the world.
Ironically, Janet recalls in her video a time when she took a stand while she was still on Fresh Prince. She wanted a raise and asked for her co-workers, including Will, to stand alongside her. He didn’t.
Janet knows the importance of speaking up for something you believe is right regardless of whether or not other people agree. Moreover, so does the character she used to play.
What would Aunt Viv do?