The responses to Chris Rock’s tasteless joke about Nicole Brown Simpson vs. Jada say a lot about how America views Black women

OPINION: The same people who said “it was just a joke” when it was Jada Pinkett Smith are now up in arms over a joke about Nicole Brown Simpson.

Chris Rock speaks onstage at the National Board of Review annual awards gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on March 15, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for National Board of Review)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

If you ever needed proof that Black women are never given the same kind of protection as their white counterparts, you need only look through this week’s headlines to see it in action. 

Comedian Chris Rock, who was infamously slapped by Will Smith while on stage at this year’s Oscars, recently made a very tasteless joke about Nicole Brown Simpson, who was murdered in 1994 along with her friend, Ron Goldman. 

It would appear Rock is all about making tasteless jokes at the expense of women. 

He poked fun at Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head during the awards show. Pinkett Smith has alopecia, an autoimmune condition that causes her hair to fall out. 

She opened up about her condition on an episode of Red Table Talk that aired after the Oscar ceremony saying, “It’s so much shame around alopecia and when you go bald, and you don’t have a choice. I think the part that makes it the most difficult for me is that it comes and goes. You’re going through a spout of something and you have to shave your head because it’s falling out.”

Imagine going through that and then being publicly shamed for it in the form of a joke in front of a live audience during a televised ceremony that is being broadcast into millions of homes. I am sure she felt humiliated. 

When Rock made his G.I. Jane joke, Will Smith walked on stage and slapped him, setting off a media frenzy in which any and everyone had something to say about his actions. He was immediately made the villain in the situation, and Chris Rock—who started it all by making his cruel joke—was suddenly the victim with everyone defending him. 

“It was a joke!” “He didn’t know she had alopecia!” “Are we just going to start attacking comedians over the jokes that they make?” “No one can take a joke?”

Those are not necessarily direct quotes, but they exemplify the many responses people had to the incident. 

Fast forward five short months later, and Chris Rock made another tasteless joke at the expense of another woman, and now everyone is mad.

During an Aug. 28 comedy show in Phoenix, Rock told the audience that he had been invited by the Academy to host the 2023 Oscars, but he turned it down. Rock said returning to the Oscars would be like Nicole Brown Simpson returning to the restaurant where her mother had left her glasses the night Brown Simpson was murdered. 

Jada Pinkett Smith, left, and Will Smith hold hands in the audience at the Oscars in Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

When Brown Simpson was killed in 1994, OJ Simpson was charged with her murder. She was found brutally murdered at her home along with her friend, Ron Goldman. Goldman was a server at the Mezzaluna restaurant in Brentwood near Brown Simpson’s home. Earlier that evening, her mother had left a pair of sunglasses at the restaurant when they had dinner. Goldman had volunteered to bring the sunglasses to Brown Simpson’s home when he finished his shift. 

Simpson was acquitted of both murders. 

It was entirely gross for Rock to liken his situation to that of two people being brutally murdered. He was simply slapped, and he is still living. Two people are dead, and their families don’t deserve to see their names in the news behind something this asinine. 

And if we are keeping it real, it wasn’t even that hard of a slap. That man never even lost his stance which would indicate the hit wasn’t hard. But that’s neither here nor there. 

The point here is that after Rock made the joke about Nicole Brown Simpson, his name percolated in the news again—this time with people angry about the joke. 

Why was it “just a joke” when it was Jada, but now it’s a big deal since the joke is about a dead white woman? 

Also? Why is a dead white woman more deserving of defense than the Black woman who is still here? 

To be clear, Rock was completely in the wrong in both instances. Both jokes were in poor taste. 

What looks bad in the light is the response to both jokes. 

The hypocrisy of it all is a little hard to take. There always seems to be a double standard where Black women are concerned. 

Why are we expected to tolerate and endure so much more than everyone else? Why is it “no big deal” and “just a joke” when it’s about one of us, but an alarming concern when the target is a white woman?

These questions are rhetorical, of course. We know why.

Historically, white women have always been more protected than their Black counterparts. They have always been considered more delicate, more fragile, and more deserving of respect and protection than Black women. This dates all the way back to slavery. That still doesn’t make it any less disappointing. 

I would ask that everyone try to view this response from Jada’s point of view. Whatever your opinions about the Smith family and their marriage and relationships, she is still a Black woman deserving of as much protection and respect as anyone else. 

And that is what keeps getting lost in these conversations.


Monique Judge

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today! 

Loading the player...