For the past two weeks, the world has once again been preoccupied with all things Kardashian. This time, there was a new center of attention. Gossip blogs broke that Jordyn Woods, the best friend of Kylie Jenner, was partying with Tristan Thompson, former boyfriend of Kylie’s sister Khloe, at his home- getting cozy and even spending the night. While so many rushed to judgment and rendered a verdict of guilty, here’s what every homegirl knew: something in the milk wasn’t clean. BFFs don’t just betray the family. While Tristan isn’t exactly the picture of faithfulness and fidelity, we weren’t getting the whole story. Whatever was being told couldn’t be bought wholesale.
As Jordyn remained silent, the Kardashian media machine went into full beast mode: cryptic IG messages, sing-a-longs, the discount- all making it clear that Jordyn had been kicked out of the land of Kardashian never to return. Like many, I didn’t know what happened but I refused to believe that Jordyn would betray her best friend and a family that loved her. And, like many, I refused to support a young Black girl being made pariah by a family that has capitalized in every single way imaginable off the aesthetic of Black womanhood. In the words of our beloved Auntie Iyanla, “not on my watch!”
Several truths can occupy the same space. It can be true that the Kardashian-Jenners felt betrayed by Jordyn’s reluctance to be completely honest about whatever happened. And, it can also be true that the Kardashian-Jenner clan mobilized their expansive reach and influence to bully Jordyn and craft a narrative that made her solely responsible for Tristan embarrassing Khloe yet again. Everything was working in their favor to make this entire family the victim of Jordyn’s -not Tristan’s- reckless behavior.
But, just when it seemed that their account would define Jordyn, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith had other plans. Earlier this week, a teaser was released that Jordyn would visit Jada’s “Red Table Talk” show to share her truth. And everything stopped on Friday when we all watched Jordyn bravely -and gracefully- accept responsibility for her actions and defend herself against the false narrative.
Before anything was said, Jada took care to let the world know who Jordyn Woods really is. She is not a Kardashian creation. She was not made by that empire. She comes from and is surrounded by love. “Where you from?” “Who are your people?” Black people know the importance of these questions. The answers root us and give us belonging in a world that would rather pluck and leave us isolated. With a grace all her own, Jada Pinkett Smith put the world on notice that Jordyn been had money and -most importantly- has always had people.
And then, there was Uncle Will- the man who Jordyn said knew her before she knew herself. The one who stepped up to provide fatherly protection and wisdom in a moment where I’m sure Jordyn would give anything to be held by her dad. In the face of adversity, Will embodied the armor that so many Black men have freely given children who are not their own. He said not only what she needed to hear but gave her the assurance that she did not walk through this without protection.
“The world attacks. It just happens. You’ll never get around the world attacking.
It just happens. But I want you to know that you are supported.
I got you and we got you…Take your medicine and tell your truth.
This is a part of what growing up is. This is a part of what learning is.
This is a part of what family is.
This world is not going to break you. We won’t allow it.”
With that, and a hug from Gammy, Jordyn went to the table.
While “Red Table Talk” enjoys an audience of diverse experiences and perspectives, what happened when Jordyn went to visit was wholly Black and deeply womanist. It centered the truth and experience of a Black woman that provided the necessary defense to violent personal attack, a space for soul searching and vulnerability, and opportunity for those watching to be self-reflective and do the work.
“Red Table Talk” has never been about tough love. In fact, it seems to exist to suggest the opposite. In a world where Black women are routinely harmed -even more as a method of healing-, it offers a soft place of retreat. Though this is a gift for the viewer, the gift for Jordyn and Black people collectively is that these red tables exist in real life.
They are the kitchen tables and couches at our godmother’s and auntie’s house where we can be ourselves and tell them our darkest truths.
They are the texts and Facetimes from our godfathers and uncles that make us laugh and remind us that everything will be okay.
They are the spaces of trusted confidence where judgment cannot enter, where we are not reminded of everything we’ve done wrong. They are the safe havens where, when we face the worst moments of our lives, we hear Jada’s words to Jordyn:
“I love you. I’m proud of you. All will be well.”
There are some places where the ugliest parts of us are given room to breathe and become beautiful. We need those spaces. In a world where Black mistakes are amplified to national crises (or even in our personal lives, as the “one” thing our families will hold over our heads forever), we have always been able to find refuge. That the Smiths were able to use their power and influence to rightly turn a national story away from their beloved niece speaks to who they’ve always been to her. And many of us know that fierce protection and loyalty. It was the member of our tribe who defended us to our parents when they were being slightly unreasonable, gave us a place to stay when we needed it, offered the loan with the “pay me back when you can” terms and conditions, prayed with us when we didn’t see a way through and wiped tears that wouldn’t seem to stop.
In a world that consistently reminds us of what we’ve done wrong, they do none of that. They only reassure us of our gifts, our capacity for change and the bright light we are called to reflect into the world. When everything around us would have us believe we deserve to be isolated and ostracized, they open doors, arms and hearts. We are here because of our village and may we seize every opportunity to be that same sanctuary for the ones who need us now and will need us soon.