Oscars outburst sparks local outrage

NOW: Oscars outburst sparks local outrage

ELKHART, Ind., --- An incident at Sunday night’s Oscars has sparked outrage across the nation and here at home.

Will Smith, who won best actor, slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face after Rock told an insensitive joke about Smith's wife being bald. Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from Alopecia, an incurable disease that causes people's hair to fall out.

It is the same disease 12-year-old Rio Allred of Elkhart suffered from and was bullied over before taking her own life just two weeks ago.

“It can just be a little bit of hair. It can just be thin hair. It can be complete baldness over your entire body. It’s a known disease, but it’s also you don’t know the level of it until you’re in it,” said Rio’s Mother, Nicole Ball.

Ball said her 12-year-old daughter battled the same condition herself and was bullied for it. She took her own life because of the bullying earlier this month.

“This is so huge. It’s not even just in this community it’s in this country in this world and it’s a culture that needs to stop. It needs to change on so many levels.”

Experts say bullying has been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. Ball sides with anti-bullying experts who believe that, on a national level, kids need better examples to follow.

“We’re setting the precedent for our children. So, if a kid sees that joke to this beautiful bald woman and then goes to school and jokes to a beautiful bald child, they don’t know how that child is going to take it,” explained Ball.

“Immediate resort to violence. It doesn’t teach anybody anything and a poor role model for our children and there are better things he could do. On the other hand you have to think 'Oh he’s walking in the shoes of his wife and kindness in respect in defending his wife', but surely there are more pro-social choices,” added Lynne Azarchi, an author and director of Kids Bridge Tolerance Center in New Jersey.

They both told ABC57 they hope this national incident helps foster change here at home.

“This is our time to a silver lining, if you may, to kids, to COVID, let’s take care of our children so the next generation can heal,” said Azarchi.

“The silver lining in it is going to be those google searches, and researching, and trying to understand why that hurt in her eyes was there. It’s an internal battle that we will never understand, but you have to be empathetic,” added Ball.

Over 1.47 million people battle Alopecia worldwide. That is one of the reasons Azarchi encouraged schools to implement social and emotional programs that could help kids be more understanding and empathetic to these differences.

Bullying resources can be found here:

Kidsbridge Center - Bullying prevention, social-emotional skills, anti-bias and anti-racism programs

The Empathy Advantage Book by Lynne Azarchi – Author • Speaker • Trainer

What Kids Can Do | StopBullying.gov

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