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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Roxane Gay Can’t Take a Joke

New York Times contributor Roxane Gay wrote an op-ed headlined “Jada Pinkett Smith Shouldn’t Have to ‘Take a Joke.’ Neither Should You.”


Gay argued that Smith should not be expected to laugh off the joke Chris Rock made about her shaved head on stage at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.

  • “This is not a defense of Will Smith, who does not need me to defend him,” Gay said of Jada Pinkett Smith’s husband, who infamously responded to Rock’s joke by walking up and slapping him in the face.
  • “Instead, this is a defense of thin skin. It is a defense of boundaries and being human and enforcing one’s limits. It is a repudiation of the incessant valorizing of taking a joke, having a sense of humor. It is a rejection of the expectation that we laugh off everything people want to say and do to us.”
  • Gay also said she no longer wishes to be thick-skinned, adding, “If our skin gets too thick, we won’t feel anything at all, which is the most unreasonable of expectations. And we won’t know we’ve been wronged or wounded until it’s too late.”

Despite claiming she was not defending Will Smith, Gay went on to cite his allegedly abusive father and Jada Pinkett Smith’s public struggle with alopecia.

  • “When you are constantly a target — of jokes, insults, incivility and worse — as most Black women are, the skin we’ve spent a lifetime thickening can come apart. We’re only human, and so, too, are the people who love us.”


According to snap polls, most Americans, including most black Americans, think Rock was the victim in the exchange with Will Smith.

  • “Yes, [Smith] has to sit and watch his wife be insulted, yes that’s the point of the celeb monologue,” quipped comedian Katherine Smith on social media.
  • “Can’t take a joke, stay home.”

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