On Friday Will Smith took over his wife’s Facebook show, The Red Table Talk, where the topic of conversation was “resolving conflict”. The wildly popular talk show became a talking point at the weekend with many dissecting the show.
For thirty years, Smith has been in an all-out feud with Janet Hubert who played his aunt, the spunky Aunt Viv who acted as a mother figure in The Fresh Prince of Belair until Season 4, where she was unceremoniously replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid.
In the years that followed Hubert and Smith have been in a war of words calling each other names, and just generally being vile human beings toward each other. Hubert came across as the “angry black woman”, while Smith came across as cold and callous, continuing to live his life as if nothing had ever happened between Hubert and himself.
He carried on with his success, living in his mansion and life carried on usual. In the meantime Hubert suffered from public shaming, struggled to find work and continued to be labelled by the public as “entitled”, and was often told to “get over it” and that it happened “over 30 years ago”.
As Will Smith prepares for a reboot of The Fresh Prince of Belair he decided to sit down with Janet Hubert and confront the ills of their relationship.
The “confrontation” was powerful and intense. As psychologist, Dr. Ramani Durvasula dissected it line by line, it was a play by play in the ideal conflict resolution situation.
Here’s what stood out for me:
Janet Hubert’s story was told but most importantly, it was heard. Without interjecting with “buts”, “ifs” and “it’s not my fault”, Hubert was given the space and the opportunity to be heard and listened to, her struggle was told, her words acknowledged and the biggest question answered, “WHY?”.
In this conversation (or at least the edited version we get to see), Smith remains silent and only acknowledges Hubert’s pain, and most importantly Smith’s complicity in his wrong-doing, which was his involvement.
Make no mistake, there were others involved in Hubert’s painful banishment from the show – allegedly, Quincy Jones and Benny Medina – but at no point does Smith interject and mention their names.
He only listens.
Eventually, when it is Smith’s turn to engage, Smith takes responsibility for his behaviour and acknowledges that, most importantly, he did not know Hubert’s struggles. He explains himself without being defensive.
And, how at the time, he did not understand the impact of her contract being reduced from a full-time role to 10 weeks per year would have on her life, her family’s life and for how long that impact would last.
It’s a lesson in listening, a lesson in acknowledging and a lesson in understanding.
Something we could all use right now.
Watch it here: