Jada Pinkett Smith, Snoop Dogg, and Respect In The Black Community
With the release of a clip from Jada Pinkett Smith’s interview with Snoop Dogg for “Red Table Talk” came a flurry of questions and apprehension:
I admit that upon seeing the clip before listening to it, I wished it were Gayle sitting for the interview instead of Snoop. When I was finally able to hear it, Jada, in the spirit of balance that has become a staple for the show, begin by letting everyone know that Gayle has an open invitation to “Red Table Talk”. She also said the platform would not be used to blame Snoop. What followed was a beautiful and necessary conversation about the important role of respect in the black community.
One of the most powerful moments in the interview was a video message from Iyanla Vanzant thanking Snoop for his apology. In her statement, she said in part,
“I don’t believe the culture of disrespect is new, particularly the African American people. We have been programmed, and conditioned, and educated in a society that expects us to accommodate, tolerate, and accept both public and personal disrespect.”
We as black people have become desensitized to dysfunction, and in some ways view it as normal. We see it in the way America treats us. We saw it in some of our families as we grew up. People that were responsible for us had trauma that they did not deal with in healthy ways, which negatively impacted their relationships and the way they brought us up. This discord has in turn been passed down through the generations. Care for mental health is a conversation in the black community that at least until recently would only go as far as the black church and the bible would take it. If you’re depressed or feeling bad, just read your bible, pray and “God will fix it”. Pray for the bad people in your life, and God will heal them and make it better, or make you stronger for it.
As a much as I believe in the power of God and prayer, I also know that doesn’t work for everyone. I firmly believe God gave people the sense of mind to get schooling so that they can help people with mental health issues, and help people deal with trauma.
Since the pastor can’t address mental health once a week for a full congregation (and in most instances isn’t professionally qualified to do so), God’s timing is sometimes worked best though prayer and mental health experts.
Fortunately the topic of mental health is coming up more among black families, due in part to people like Iyanla Vanzant who host shows and speak out publicly on the topic. Part of the difficulty in that conversation though is resources. Some black families don’t have access to sufficient mental health treatment be it due to insufficient health care, lack of transportation, or lack of access to someone that can give a sense of comfort with this sensitive subject matter.
Reality TV has also played a role in pushing dysfunction to the forefront with its scripted antics that are depicted and taken seriously as “reality”. So many of these shows encompass consistent arguing, physical confrontations and unimaginable levels of disrespect as par the course for friendships and romantic relationships. The demeaning one liners and “clap backs” from cast members are the makings of quotes and memes that have become almost embedded in the zeitgeist of “the culture”.
These factors and others are the breeding ground for the kind of confusion we’ve seen since the clip from Gayle King’s interview with Lisa Leslie was released.
While speaking with Jada, Snoop said more people were with him than against him in his upset with Gayle King. Snoop felt Gayle was disrespectful to Kobe Bryant’s family by bringing up the 2003 rape allegations in an interview with Lisa Leslie, but the resounding message Snoop got from family and friends including his mother, Tyler Perry, Van Jones, and Puff Daddy, was that even in his anger, his approach could have been much more respectful.
So many of us understood and related to Snoop’s anger. We were all still reeling from Kobe’s death, so to point out such a negative time in his life felt like a gut punch.
Unfortunately what so many people did not relate to was Snoop rightfully being called out over the words he used to address Gayle, and here is where the dysfunction sets in.
From the release of the ““Red Table Talk” interview clip, while there were some positive takes, there was also a collective expression of confusion from some on how Jada could fell impacted by Snoop’s words when Snoop wasn’t addressing her. This fails to line up though if people felt like Gayle collectively hurt black men with her line of questioning in the interview with Lisa (and in addition, her sit down with R. Kelly.) There is now a growing narrative that Gayle King is “attacking black men”.
This also does not line up with a collective feeling among black people that Snoop did no wrong and should not have been called out.
So we could collectively relate to Snoops initial anger, be collectively confused with Jada, be collectively mad at Gayle, be collectively upset that Snoop Dogg is being called out, but not understand how Jada feels that Snoop Dogg’s words were an insult to black women as a collective?
One of these things is not like the other.
One of the most interesting things that has come out of this entire incident with Gayle’s interview is the refusal of some black people to understand that different things can hold space at the same time and all of them be true either to a respective person or in general.
The fact that some of us believe seeing the validity of the other side somehow takes away from personal conviction speaks to a level of dysfunction and disrespect that we have become accustomed to.
We can side with Snoop Dogg and be angry at Gayle for her line of questioning about Kobe, AND call out Snoop for the way he addressed Gayle. Calling Snoop out on his hurtful words does not eliminate the feeling that Gayle was wrong, it simply means that Gayle was wrong and then Snoop was wrong. The adage “two wrongs don’t make a right” starts with “two wrongs”.
If so many felt collectively angry at Gayle, it should then not be that far of a stretch to understand what Jada meant when she said Snoop’s words made her feel like he took away some of her power, and the power of other black women. Yet because disrespect is such a strong motivator in the black community, and because being snarky and rude and degrading is the making of viral tweets, involvement ends up leaning towards the melee and not towards attempts at understanding.
Let me be clear in that I get where all of this comes from. Journalist Jemele Hill who is a friend of Snoop also sent in a video message thanking Snoop for his apology, and she said something in her message that was echoed throughout the interview.
“Black men in this country have been made out to be a target.” She said.
No truer words have been spoken.
From slavery into the continual present day killings of unarmed black men by police, black men have been cast as enemy of the state, and we are treated as such. Because of our fear and anger as black men, we sometimes lash out at our women simply because they are there. As a result of the hurt we carry and have been taught as men to suppress, our pain sometimes gets out in front of our ability to treat our women with dignity in expressing our need for them. Snoop Dogg’s visceral reaction to Gayle King was a clear display of the disrespectful lashing out that comes from pain.
Again, it was not Snoop disagreeing with Gayle that was the act of disrespect, it was the way he expressed his disagreement.
Snoop’s apology to Gayle, his willingness to follow it up on “Red Table Talk”, and his efforts in reaching out to Gayle for an in person apology are all beautiful testaments to the man he has become. Even though black men are under attack, we still need to hold ourselves accountable in the way we handle our women, because they will go out of their way to support us, even after we disrespect them. Snoop has made a tremendous amount of personal growth over the years, and the way he has handled this entire situation since his initial statement is an inspiring example of male accountability.
Even with my frustration that we haven’t handled each other carefully over the last few weeks since Kobe’s death, I know something for certain.
Our displaced anger comes from the fact that we as black men and women, are hurting, and we are tired.
We have generational trauma and present day pain that sometimes causes us to fall under the weight of it all. To say we must “stay strong” in some instances is more a lofty theory than an attainable goal.
I also know that we will not give up, and there are little things we can do along the way to help us in our battle to “stay strong”.
We can slowly unlearn the disrespect we have witnessed and support each other. When we don’t agree, we can at least strive to see the validity of the other side, and not discredit someone else’s feelings just because they don’t align with our own. The impact Snoop Dogg’s words had on Jada may not seem comparable when held up to the face of our anger at Gayle, but it doesn’t make her point or her feelings any less valid.
Also, knowing that we won’t always be right, we can call each other on our faults, and we can be humble enough to listen when we are told we may be wrong. Snoop himself said the he wants to be put in check and held accountable when he’s wrong because it makes him a better man.
To always agree with each other is an unrealistic expectation, but to respect each other is something we can all strive to do.
Snoop noted that we can also try harder to see the positive. Two years ago he released a gospel album. The reaction to it? “No one wants to talk about that.” Snoop said. “But the minute I say “bitch” or “hoe” that’s what people point to.”
Being a rapper, his example of a positive was the fact that crips and bloods across the country are coming together.
I’d like to think that if these two gangs- men that are the fiercest of enemies- can begin coming together, surely we can find ways to love on each other without even having to put our differences aside.
Yes, we can love each other and carry our differences in tow.