Smith? Check. Now Clean Up the Rest of Your Hot Mess, AMPAS.

Catherine Pugh, Esq.
10 min readApr 9, 2022


Whether we individually oppose or support the Smith ban, we collectively oppose disparate treatment. Well, the Academy just gifted us with a textbook case. Shamelessly.

I have done all the leg work, found all of the players, and asked and answered all of the questions to challenge the Academy’s dual system of accountability. I share that work freely here, as long as you understand two simple things.

First, this is a decision point. We can either keep complaining in the quarters or put the fire to the Academy’s feet.

Next, that decision point also decides you. Should you choose to do nothing more than kvetch, time to consider that maybe you are not part of the problem. Maybe you are the problem — because broken does not fix itself, friend.

Will Smith is banned from the Oscars. CREDIT: Reuters. Halle Berry reacts to Adrien Brody’s non-consensual Academy Kiss. CREDIT: YouTube. Adrien Brody accepts the Academy Award for Best Actor. CREDIT: ©

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, or AMPAS, announced today that it is banning Will Smith from its award ceremony for ten years for his on stage assault against presenter and comedian Chris Rock. Why? Because AMPAS has well-defined standards of conduct and morality.

Just ask AMPAS President David Rubin and AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson. “The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage,” they said in today’s enforcement statement.

Thing is, a long history of known facts* say that is simply not the case. In fact, the Academy’s two-tier approach to accountability is easy to demonstrate.

Painfully easy.

That is what I do for you here, in thirteen movements of 240 characters each. It would appear that as long as you do not slap the Academy with them, you are free to tweet, chat, post, email, fax, snail mail, Instagram, upload, and all around harvest them at will. The goal? To form a simple, unified, and impossible to ignore decree: @The Academy is playing fast and loose with the rules. We see you. #MakeThisMakeSense because if you cannot, we will make sure the world sees you too.

Change is an act, not a desire — an act driven completely by the people. Right now, “the people” is you.

“Choose this time to not be silent. Choose this time to be the groundswell instead of just hoping there is one.”

Ways to contact the Academy:

AMPAS reportedly finds harmful behavior actionable, whether done on stage or off. Yet:

ADRIEN BRODY committed non-consensual sexual force against Halle Berry, on stage, during AMPAS’s 75th award event. It has clear notice about Smith and Brody, but has ONLY acted against Smith. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

Halle Berry left open no interpretation that ADRIEN BRODY’s assault was harmless or consensual. Two award recipients assaulted AMPAS presenters, but AMPAS only banned one. Guess which. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

It took AMPAS 12 days to discipline Will Smith. ADRIEN BRODY’S non-consensual conduct occurred almost 19 years (to the day) before. AMPAS has ignored Brody for 6,956 days yet banned Smith in 12. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense

Will Smith apologized in a day. ~Two decades later, and ADRIEN BRODY’S forced touching is still among his “most memorable moments.” AMPAS banned the admitted wrongdoer but still welcomes the indifferent one. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense

WOODY ALLEN married his ex’s child, whom he met at 9, then kept nude pictures of her as an adult. He still has his 27 Academy Awards. AMPAS believes Smith should return his to restore our “national conscious.”@TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

It took a 6-man security team to stop JOHN WAYNE from assaulting Indigenous actress Sacheen Littlefeather during AMPAS’s 45th Award ceremony. AMPAS banned Will Smith; Wayne remains an AMPAS icon. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

ROMAN POLANSKI drugged and raped a child, fled before sentencing, then received an Oscar as a fugitive 20y later. Smith assaulted Rock and faced it. AMPAS treated The Slapper worse than the pedophile. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

It took a majority vote, threat of resignation by CBS’s President, and a 135K-signature petition to oust serial sexual offender HARVEY WEINSTEIN for allegations from the 1970s. Will Smith was one and done. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

In 2004, ADAM KIMMEL admitted to vaginal intercourse with a child. In 2007, AMPAS invited Kimmel to join the Academy. Will Smith slapped Chris Rock and was banned almost immediately. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

JIM CARREY committed forced, non-consensual sexual conduct against Alicia Silverstone during a June 1997 MTV award show. The Academy ignored Carrey’s abuse but banned Will Smith for his. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

KEVIN SPACEY faces possible sex abuse criminal charges and was ordered to pay a production studio $31M for violating its sexual harassment policy. From AMPAS, crickets. For Will Smith, cremation. @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

AMPAS bylaws state that it will be “fair, prompt and impartial” when investigating rule violations. And yet, as to promptness and in this order, it took AMPAS:

  • 12 days post-admission to oust Will Smith, and
  • 14 years post-conduct and 5 days post-conviction to expel Bill Cosby, but
  • 15 years post-conduct Carmine Caridi;
  • 18 years post-conduct and 19 years post-conviction to eject Adam Kimmel; and,
  • 42 years post-conduct and 41 years post-conviction to permanently ban Roman Polanski.
  • 52 years post-conduct but 3 years pre-conviction to terminate Harvey Weinstein’s membership.

The clock is still running for:

#DontEvenTryToMakeThisMakeSense. #JustAdmitYouWereWrongAndFixIt

For the first time in its history and contrary to its bylaws, AMPAS appears to have self-initiated a member investigation. Not for pedophilia or sexual assault — just The Slap. Because “standards.” @TheAcademy #MakeThisMakeSense.

AMPAS clearly condemns harassment and assault. It has gone back 5 decades to punish member-conduct. AMPAS is finally investigating Adrien Brody, Kevin Spacey, Jim Carrey, and John Wayne, correct? No? @TheAcademy, #MakeThisMakeSense.

Should we not demand, with force and clarity, that AMPAS universally apply its rules of conduct, standard of review, and range of consequences?”

I am not here to tell you that the Academy is, or is not, racist. I am here to tell you that:

  • Every single White bad actor, whether violent or abusive, apologetic or indifferent, causing current or prior harm, went completely ignored by AMPAS or enjoyed decades being accountability free.
  • Every single Black bad actor was disciplined with whiplash speed and strident accountability.
  • AMPAS has unambiguously and repeatedly shown White bad behavior its tolerance and Black bad behavior its teeth.

Make of that what you wish, and if it makes you feel better, do it without involving a white sheet. Just know that the “why” is not for challenger, but the challenged. In a demand for course (and not character) correction, he who challenges harm need not first define the bad actor’s intent.

Instead, the “what” is for the challenger, expressed as a range of un/acceptable conduct. In a demand for course (and not character) correction, the bad actor ends and cures its conduct, or the challenger ensures the bad actor goes extinct.

I was fortunate enough to speak about disparate Academy treatment with Egberto Willies of Politics Done Right. Willies and I discussed America’s color-coded tracks of accountability, and the Academy rush to “discover” consequences with Will Smith.

This issue — two tracks of American accountability — has legs. I encounter it often. We disparagingly call this kind of exchange a bunch of “whataboutisms,” and I get that. But there is a genuine fear here that needs more time in the light.

Black Americana can be diligent about not providing cover for bad black behavior. But when moral Americana fails to push back at over tolerating bad non-Black behavior, accountability cants too far the wrong way. The net effect is that White America gets justice’s tolerance, while Black America gets justice’s teeth. That’s a hard no.

Unfortunately, that’s largely how American justice works, but it doesn’t have to. We all should be beating the crap of the equalizing drum — that is, we will neither tolerate nor accommodate two tracks of justice.

We’re relatively new at instant public race-based intercourse, so our mechanics are clunky. Will slapped Chris, what, a week ago? and already we’re deep in the abuse and -ism weeds, yet giving it our all to breathe shallowly. Nuance and relevance are hard in a 240-character attention span era. By the time this topic hits a tweet, it sounds like whining or giving Smith a pass or being hostile to Whites when it’s none of that. It’s a fight for the American id.

Shit’s gotta start somewhere. Might as well be here.

You can hear the full interview here. In the Twitter lead up to that podcast, we specifically addressed White pile on, and the propriety of White engagement.

There’s the whole phenomenon that happens in the White community when Blacks cross REALLY OLD conduct lines. Suddenly, words like “boundary” & “impropriety” have meaning. “Accountability” becomes a thing. Grace & depth & nuance & context disappear.

With Black bad actors, we lose that “grace” & “depth.” The whole cha cha suddenly becomes a lot more B & W. X is bad. X is wrong. X should be [whatever]. The offense is crystal clear. The consequence is uber obvious. The wrong is *innately understood.*

And we’re sick of it. Sick of practicing tolerance & embracing the human condition as broken & constantly evolving when the bad actor is white, & ham-handed “off with their heads” when the bad actor is black.

It teaches me 2B distrustful of white contribution-or White Pile on-as it well should. It makes me want to demand THEIR papers pre-participation. “Before u respond, please list where you fell on: HWein b4 he was a thing; Orlando Bloom; Adrien Brody; Kevin Spacey; Woody Allen.”

Precedent is not a river in Egypt. Practice it. Stop discovering shit OVER HERE. Everybody gets away with it, or no one does. That’s not how we live, and I’m not here for it. So, yes — White comedians can show us their bonafides or sit this one TF out.

(I’m generalizing, but only as a shortcut. I don’t believe “all” anyone does anything. Please forgive the resulting implication — it overreaches my individual beliefs. That is, of course, how generalizing operates.)

We know that America’s psyche is deeply race-broken in ways we have yet to fully understand or acknowledge.

We know that history — and the Academy — teach that we are too broken to take either’s judgment neutrality on faith.

We know that our fickle vesting of moral fabric leads to repugnant inequities.

We know the net effect should therefore dictate that we take pause — as a matter of routine — when the bad actor is Black.

Because, as we also know, our national soul is not defined by our government or our systems, but by our individuals — individuals with the strength and passion to coalesce around fairness and decency.

And all that means nothing if we but complain to each other about that hard-learned lesson. Should we not demand, with force and clarity, that AMPAS universally apply its rules of conduct, standard of review, and range of consequences?

Choose this time to not be silent. Choose this time to be the groundswell instead of just hoping there is one. I have done the groundwork, yes, but the fight must be brought by the whole of us, friends.

Be well,

Signature block of Catherine L. Pugh, Esq., who commonly writes on  race, racism, culture, society, police/policing and misconduct.
EMAIL: FACEBOOK: TWITTER: @EsqPugh. View a Race and Profiling Lecture Series appearance here.
Roman chariot in a race for equality because racism can be a contact sport

Before you engage me or others, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Ten things to watch out for during racism discussions.

Catherine Pugh is an Attorney at Law and former Adjunct Professor at the Temple University, Japan. She developed and taught Race and the Law for its undergraduate program, and Evidence, Criminal Law, and Criminal and Civil Procedure for its law program. She has worked for the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, and was a Public Defender for the State of Maryland. View her Race and Profiling Lecture Series appearance here. The view expressed here are personal. Nothing in this or any Medium writing is a legal recommendation, legal advice, or a legal opinion.

To my sweetest of loves: I am the wall for them; you are the wall for me. And nothing — nothing — has ever gotten past you. You are my everything. #CubanKitchen.

“It takes the wisdom of the elders . . .” Thank you for teaching us, loving us, leading us all: Mary Stovall Davis Budd, Andrea Tucker, Lorenzo Pugh, Dorris Pugh, Jacqueline Wallace, Roger Wallace, Kenneth Davis, Sandra Davis, and Karen Davis.

Underground Railroad Quilt used as footer in a race / racism / justice discussion.
Quilts and the Underground Railroad

Keywords: race, abuse, race abuse, culture, and society.

*: I challenge the Academy on its known conduct. Note, however, that the Academy typically does not publicly reveal member disciplinary actions as “a matter of policy.” Also note: the Academy — it is reportedly believed — had never ousted a member for non-Academy conduct until October 2017. And, the Academy has reportedly never ousted a (then) member for show-related conduct until Will Smith.

SOURCE: Steve Pond, Motion Picture Academy Expels Harvey Weinstein, (Oct. 14, 2017).



Catherine Pugh, Esq.

Private Counsel. Former DOJ-CRT, Special Litigation Section, Public Defender; Adjunct Professor (law & undergrad). Developed Race & Law course.