Three Hard Lessons Learned From The Tragedy Of Will Smith

What lessons can Black men learn from Will Smith's relationship & marital ordeal?

Will Smith & his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, on the latter's "Red Table Talk" on Facebook, Fri, Jul 10, 2020. Black America wept.
Will Smith & his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, on the latter’s “Red Table Talk” on Facebook, Fri, Jul 10, 2020. Black America wept.

“The moral of the story is: I chose a half-measure when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again. No more half-measures, Walter.”
-Mike Ehrmantraut, “Breaking Bad”

“You can take the girl out of Baltimore, but you can’t take Baltimore out of the girl.”
-Jada Pinkett Smith

It’s been a heck of a year of what can only be described as an interesting, if not wholly disturbing, series of role reversals featuring some of Black America’s most high-profile couples. First it was multi-time NBA champion and Golden State Warrior Steph Curry’s wife Ayesha going off the deep end, lamenting her not getting attention from other men, as if her altar boy hubbie weren’t enough; then there was the Instagram live seen around the world when Black woman heartthrob model and actor Boris Kodjoe took a verbal drubbing from his wife, Nicole Ari Parker, with her telling the world just how much he was foound wanting in the loving husband department.

And now this – an all but de facto confessional on the part of Jada Pinkett Smith to her husband Will Smith, about her tryst with the very young, up & coming, and very troubled R&B singer August Alsina, some four years ago during her and Will’s “separation”. The whole thing went down on Jada’s wildly popular Facebook show “Red Table Talk” and within mere hours of its airing on Fri, Jul 10, 2020, it garnered over 10 million views(!) and generated scores of memes of a teary-eyed Will. What was intended to put an end to gossip media speculation on the life and times of one of Black America’s most storied couples, may very well pour a gallon of gasoline on an already roaring bonfire. What all three of these insanely successful, faithful Black men had to endure from their boorish Black wives, makes what long-suffering Hollywood fixture Richard Lawson went through at the hands of his wife, and mother of Beyonce’ Tina Knowles a few years back, look tame by comparison.

All of this comes at a very sensitive time in contemporary Black American life, when the marital rate isn’t just at an all-time low for all Americans, but one for Black Americans themselves, when compared to their past; when nearly 80% of all Black kids are born out of wedlock; and when Black Americans don’t even live together as much as other non-married Americans do. Simply put, Black Americans are, to coin a phrase from the popular book by Charles Murray, “Coming Apart” – and it seems as if it’s taking place at the very top of the Black American pecking order to boot.

What is today’s Black man – particularly for purposes of this column, the so-called “Non-Select Guy” to make of all this? And perhaps even more to the point, what lessons can he learn from Will’s ordeal in particular, moving forward in his own dating and mating life? Your correspondent has given much thought and meditation to all of this, and have identified three hard, powerful lessons that we all would do well to take heed from. After all, if we don’t learn these lessons from Will Smith’s life, his public humiliation at the hands of his wife of a quarter of a century, will have truly been in vain.

So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

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The first lesson is exemplified in Jada Pinkett Smith herself and, ironically enough given Will’s first line of work that acted as the springboard to even more stardom, the title of this section comes from a popular rap song by Project Pat. “Don’t Save Her”, a Southern hip hop staple, only puts into verse the barbershop truism that holds, “you can’t turn a hoe into a housewife”. Now, before readers outside of my target demographic clutch their pearls as they recoil, am I saying that Jada Pinkett Smith is a hoe? Not necessarily – but it IS clear that she is “for them streets” – and I’m sorry to report, that “them fast-assed girls” as my dearly departed grandmother would call such young women, don’t make for upstanding, loyal mates and wives. As Mrs. Smith has aptly proven.

It has long been held among Black American chit-chat circles that Jada had a thing for the late rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur and carried a torch for him ever since – and interestingly enough, the pics that have surfaced of her and Alsina in poses that are just a weebit too close to be “just friends” reminds one of Tupac himself – bare-chested, rail thin with gangsta tats all over the place. Many hood philosophers and barbershop academics would argue that Alsina is the kind of guy Jada truly goes for; he is what really turns her crank and gets her motor running. And, putting the aforementioned thing for Tupac together with the much more recent Alsina “entanglement”, it’s hard to say otherwise.

In and of itself this wouldn’t be a bad thing – we all have our “types” – but what complicates matters is the fact that she is married to Will. And, as I’ve noted several times before in this column, when it comes to LTRs and marriage, the man is in the driver’s seat. He gets to make the call as to whether there will or won’t be a date; whether there will or won’t be a relationship; and whether there will or won’t be a marriage, because in all three instances it is the man who must initiate the action; the woman can only accept or reject the offers. Therefore, as much as I am displeased at Jada’s behavior, at the end of the day I must hold Will accountable for this whole sordid affair, because he was the one to propose to Jada in the first place. And, of course she would take the deal – I mean, what woman, (other than Pepa, who would live to regret her choosing Treach of Naughty by Nature fame over Will) wouldn’t, right? After all, Will can and has done it all – been a multi-platinum, Grammy-award winning rapper; been successful in television for six seasons straight; and has since gone on an Oscar-nominated tear of box-office smash hits for the better part of two decades. With an estimated net worth of somewhere between $250M-$350M USD, tall, handsome and wholesome, what’s not to like, right?

But the problem with Will, from this dating coach’s perspective, is that he has a tendency to want to “save” wayward “fast-assed girls” – who have proven to him that they don’t wanna be saved. Pepa proved it to him back in the day and it broke his heart by all accounts; and we all saw how much Jada broke his heart on Facebook the other day. As Jada said herself and appears as a constant reminder to my readers in the leadoff quotation above, you can take the girl out of Baltimore, but you can’t take the Baltimore out of the girl. No matter what, Jada will always be for them streets, and Will had no business trying to make an honest wife out of her.

Hence the first lesson to the students of my dojo: Target Selection is key. The women you choose for your dating and mating operations, especially if you have designs on something long term, can and will make or break you. Choosing wisely cannot be emphasized or said enough here. And no, you cannot make a hoe into a housewife. Even if you’ve got the world on a string like Will Smith.

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Another major blunder Will made with Jada, aside from marrying her in the first place, was in what I call, taking a “half-measure”. What am I talking about here? As their appearance on “Red Table Talk” last Friday made clear, Will and Jada had decided to “take a break” from their marriage four years ago – that “break” set the stage for the events that we all know about today. For Black folks, being “separated” is a real thing and something we’ve been doing for decades – no longer actively involved with our spouses but still linked to them legally, etc. Instead of severing ties completely, getting a divorce and moving on, we want to hold on to something that has proven not to work. Why do we do this? In my opinion, we do it because far too many of us are seriously broken and either cannot or refuse to stand on our two feet and get on with the business of living. Many of us are addicted to the dysfunction of our relationships – recall the part in the confessional where Jada and Will high-fived each other, mimicking that famous line from the “Bad Boys” franchise, “Bad marriage for life”. I mean, what kind of sick, twisted shit is that?!?

It’s a matter of public record that Will hailed from a highly dysfunctional home background where violence between his parents was part of the situation growing up; and from what we’ve all seen the other day, it is also crystal clear that Will, for all his success, fame and fortune, hasn’t gotten the very real help he needs to heal and move on. Clinging for dear life to Jada will do him no good and could quite possibly wind up being a whole lot worse. Cheaters tend to be a lot like Lay’s potato chips – “they can’t only stop at one” – and it’s only a matter of time before Jada winds up in another “entanglement”. Just as Will was the one to initiate this marriage to Jada to begin with, he also had the power to end it once and for all and move on – and he didn’t. And now, four years later, look at the result. How is anyone involved, think of the kids(!), better off because of the hot mess that was on Facebook the other day? To ask the question, is to answer it.

Thus, the second very important lesson for my students: In love and in life, there are no half-measures – and those men who take them are dooming themselves to defeat, failure and worse. When you see things aren’t working, be man enough and love yourself enough, to let go completely. Making a clean break from things frees up space in your life for new things and people to replace that which was lost – and often, if you’ve done the work, for the better.

SHAMELESS PLUG AD BREAK: Like what you’re reading now? Wait till you see my very first book, “The Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman”! Here’s YOUR chance to help me bring the dream to life, by supporting “The Book of Obsidian Fundraising Campaign”! All the details are over at Now, back to the article!

That brings me to the third and final lesson all of us can take away from Will Smith’s truly tragic situation that he finds himself in today – and that is in his failure to take control of his own life. Fellas, when you fail to take control of your life, as Will has done, others can and will take control of your life for you. This was clearly the case with Jada, when she uses funky and ambiguous terminology to describe her affair with “Aug”, using words like “entanglement”; even Will was taken aback at Jada’s near sociopathic behavior. Her attempts to sidestep her own actions and how they impacted a clearly upset and deeply hurt Will, underscore the point I’m making in this section of today’s column. When you fail to take control of your life, others, who may not have your best interests at heart, can and will fill the void you have abdicated. And the results won’t be pretty.

Will clearly has horrible boundary issues – and nor is he alone. Quiet as its kept, millions of Black men also have weak boundaries where Black women can and will intrude and trample upon them with impunity, because society won’t hold them accountable for it and worse, Black American culture aids and abets it. Black men and Black men alone, must lead the charge in this regard. It is one thing for a relationship or marriage not to work; after all, it is an unfortunate fact of our existence that all such things do not last or end well. But it is something else entirely for others to disrespect us further, because we have failed to impose and enforce our own personal boundaries. How can any woman respect a man who won’t stand up for himself – especially to her? What we saw the other day on Facebook between Will and Jada is a clear and present case of Will not enforcing his boundaries and demanding that Jada either respect them, or that he was done – and meant it. You can see for yourselves what happens when a man gives the impression that he can be toyed around with like a tomcat toys with a dazed and confused mouse before putting it out of its misery.

Thus the final lesson for today, boys: That, as the lines in the epic poem “Invictus” says, you are the master of your ship, the captain of your soul. You, and you alone, must be responsible for your life, not others – because more often than not, others may very well be damaged and broken themselves and may mean you no good. Even, especially, those closest to you.

As Will is finding out himself these days.

Therein is today’s lessons. Nothing more will I teach today.

Now adjourn your asses…


Mumia Obsidian Ali is a citizen journalist, podcaster, talk radio show host, newly minted dating coach and soon to be author. You can catch his daily live shows on the global livestreaming radio website Mixlr, as well as the all-new members-only Obsidian Radio Zoomcast, and his podcasts on YouTube and Black Avenger TV, as well as his weekly dating coach column at the Negromanosphere website. He’s also a semi-professional pest.

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