White People, Don't Call It A Comeback For Will Smith Because Black Folks Never Stopped Loving Him

Photo: Alexander Tamargo (Getty Images)
Photo: Alexander Tamargo (Getty Images)

“Bad Boys: Ride Or Die,” the fourth installment in the popular movie franchise starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, opened on June 7 with an impressive debut of $56m in the U.S. and $104.6m globally. It is also the second biggest domestic launch of the summer right after “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” which debuted to $58 million in the U.S.

The film has surpassed expectations with perfect movie scores, positive reviews and Black folks making up the biggest quadrant of the viewers at 44%. Despite how white outlets have painted Smith, the success of the film—and his career trajectory—doesn’t surprise Black people in the least: we never stopped loving him.

When Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage at the 2022 Oscars, Hollywood shunned the star. White celebrities—ranging from Judd Apatow to Amy Schumer—dramatically condemned Smith with the former stating that the slap “could’ve killed” Rock. As punishment, Smith was banned from the Motion Picture Academy for a decade.

However, the actor knew that atonement would be inevitable and offered a heartfelt, teary-eyed apology for the incident. Black folks never stopped supporting Smith—mostly because of our over-arching empathy when it comes to our heroes. We are also extremely familiar with how Rock has made Black women the butt of his jokes for years.

His quip about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair wasn’t the first time he had Will’s wife’s name in his mouth—and sadly it wouldn’t be the last. A year of the slap, Rock’s Netflix stand-up comedy special “Selective Outrage” further degraded Pinkett Smith as he continued to call Jada out of her name and blamed her for Will hitting him.

Still, Smith took being shunned from Hollywood with grace as he released his 2022 film “Emancipation” (which was available only on Apple TV+) and supported Jada on her 2023 press tour for her memoir “Worthy.” The success of “Bad Boys: Ride Or Die” proves that Will is still a bankable movie star despite the controversy—and because his talent will always speak for itself.

Smith is the only actor in Hollywood history to have 8 consecutive films gross more than $100 million in the box office. He is also the first rapper to win a Grammy as one-half of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Smith’s accolades aren’t the only reason his community adores him; his wholesomeness is almost an anomaly when it comes to celebrity culture.

Honestly, one mistake could never overshadow that. If white folks can prop up folks like Morgan Wallen after he said the N-word and Johnny Depp for allegedly committing domestic abuse, they should be able to understand Smith’s urge to defend his wife. The hypocrisy is not just alarming, but a regular occurrence when it comes to double standards regarding personal conduct.

Will Smith needed this win to show his paler naysayers what we already knew: nothing can derail his well-earned success.

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