Publicly defending Black women in America remains an extreme sport.

At the Oscars on Sunday, comedian Chris Rock decided to poke fun at actress and talk show host Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, joking that he “can’t wait” for “G.I. Jane 2.” It was a reference to the close military cut sported by Demi Moore in the 1997 film, and Rock’s joke landed sideways in more ways than one. The audience laughed halfheartedly — seriously, a 25-year-old movie? — while Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes in utter annoyance. Meanwhile, after first laughing, Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, walked onstage, wound up and landed an openhanded blow to Rock’s face. “Keep my wife’s name out of your f---ing mouth!” the soon-to-be winner for best actor shouted once he returned to his seat.

Karen Attiah is a columnist for The Washington Post. She writes on international affairs, culture and social issues. Previously, she reported from Curacao, Ghana and Nigeria.

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