A Letter To Chris Rock

Bonsu Thompson
5 min readApr 1, 2022

The Oscar night smack was less about a Black woman’s hair and more about the life-long traumas of two Black men

Photo courtesy of Splash Photography

My grandmother Alice Thompson’s house stood directly across the street from your family’s. You don’t remember me. You were much older, and I just a nappy-headed kid riding training wheels up and down the sidewalk with your brother Kenny. (We’re still in touch; wish y’all were.) Your appearance in Beverly Hills Cop II made you the first celebrity to ever speak directly to me. At that age, I had no idea of how much real estate the famous would take up in my future. Most are unaware of how much teenage Chris Rock physically resembled MC Gusto in CB4. Your Jheri Curl was glowed up way before Darryl Jenks. Anyway, my point is that we’re from Decatur Street and Saratoga Avenue. Who on our Brooklyn block would’ve let anyone smack them without a response? Certainly no one on Saratoga.

At first, like many others, I figured Will Packer convinced the two of you to enact a Real Husbands of Hollywood-type bit. I could’ve sworn I saw you stick your jaw out ever so slightly before the swing. Then Will returned to his seat and I saw no CB4 in his eyes. Shit was real.

I get it: Who expects to be smacked by the Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Who could foresee a jaw tap while presenting at the Oscars? That’s supposed to be the safest stage in America. My issue, though, is with your body language pre- and post-slap. For a millisecond, I saw your right shoulder perk for retaliation. Then you retreated with this sort of butler’s slide, as if for a moment you forgot your place at the dinner table was on the periphery. In that moment, it appeared you’d also forgotten your first address. You seemed flustered, then verbally cautious. I heard you bite a loaded tongue. Your mouth deployed damage control on a mess it conceived. I’m sorry, but you just aren’t capable of a performance that dramatic. I mean, I loved Top 5, but not because of your acting. I’d prefer to act like I didn’t understand your discipline Sunday night, but I do. I’m aware of the power under that Academy Award stage. It can be a professional jetpack as easily as a landmine.

Please don’t assume that I’m taking sides here. In fact, I’m more disappointed in Will. Like, way more than his performance as Ali. Your joke didn’t warrant an assault (Laverne Cox was far…

Bonsu Thompson

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.