Lexington is struggling with record homicides and a crime rate considerably higher than the national average. Currently in our city, five youth (who happen to be black males) face circuit court (felony) charges. Typically, young people facing those charges are accused of crimes involving a gun.
I’m running for mayor because I understand that the reasons for this are numerous and complex. Oftentimes, though, mentorship, and the lack thereof, is mentioned as a key contributor to this problem.
Last night, violence took center stage at the Oscars and far too many people are applauding Will Smith’s behavior. At a time when role models are in short supply, we must show our young people that violence is never the answer. Young men and boys need positive examples of what it means to be a man and how to navigate the many nuances on their journey into manhood.
God calls us, as men, to be protectors. Now, my mother raised me. She was my protector. Countless mothers across this nation have to be both nurturer and protector. This isn’t about gender identity, conformity or the roles in which we do and/or should play in society.
What prompted me to pen this letter was the response of so many that don’t see what the proper response from Will Smith to Chris Rock should have been, in defense of his wife. I won’t attempt to give my opinion about what I believe he should have done or how I personally would have handled the situation.
With that said, Chris Rock was wrong. Point blank. In more ways than one, the writers and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were wrong. The joke made about Jada’s hair was insensitive, inappropriate and seems to have been an intentional provocation towards the Smith family.
However, my goal here is to state facts about what was wrong about his response and that violence is never the answer.
I served in the military. I’m a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When a threat exists, soldiers utilize two techniques to determine how to appropriately address said threats: Rules of Engagement (ROE) and Escalation of Force (EOF). For more information on these, click here.
Over the years, I’ve made this point with police officers about how escalation of force practices need to be implemented in much the same manner within the continental United States (CONUS). Kevin Mott, a former Marine Corps infantry officer and police officer, makes this case well in this USA Today article from June 2020.
Bottom line: Will’s use of force didn’t match the offense. Rules of engagement did not apply and that is a shame.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Philippians 2: 5-8
Will Smith absolutely should have addressed the disrespect of his wife. However, he should not have done so using his hands.
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, said “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). In Philippians 2: 5-8, the Apostle Paul illustrates exactly what he meant. Jesus had all the power in the world, and he chose not to use it. Jesus made the conscious decision not to resort to violence and submitted himself to crucifixion, the most painful and humiliating death imaginable.
Now, I understand that much like our young people in Lexington, Will has dealt with a lot of trauma in his life. He’s been very open about witnessing his father abuse his mother and the subsequent guilt for not defending her, which has impacted how he’s handled conflict throughout his life.
In his new memoir, Will, he writes that as a child he told himself he’d avenge his mother and “slay” his father, having an opportunity and the temptation to carry out that vengeance prior to his passing in 2016.
However, he made the decision to not choose violence and act on that opportunity, saying, "As the decades of pain, anger, and resentment coursed then receded, I shook my head and proceeded to wheel Daddio to the bathroom … Thank God we’re judged by our actions and not our trauma-driven, inner outbursts.” Last night, Will could have benefited from not acting on his trauma-driven outburst.
What Will Smith did was inappropriate and illegal. I understand the sentiment that applauds Will’s act as chivalrous, but sadly, last night was a poor example of such. Friends, please do not celebrate violence or crime.
In the first three months of 2022, Lexington has had 5 murders, 24 incidents of forcible rape, and 96 aggravated assaults, just to name a few. Too many of these incidents involved young people, as products of their neglected communities but also as products of a social media driven society where violence is often encouraged and glorified. And as we saw today, in the aftermath of this televised incident, Will Smith is being supported and applauded for physically assaulting another person. Our young people need better examples of what it means to be men. We can’t just teach them what not to do. We must show them.