• Development

Will Smith, Chris Rock slapping incident becomes tool for teaching about dealing with conflict.

CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News) -- Will Smith apologized to Chris Rock Monday for slapping him at the Oscars the night before – saying he was "out of line" and "wrong."


"I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong," Smith wrote. "I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness."


"Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally," he added.


Meanwhile as CBS 2's Steven Graves reported, Monday night, young people in Chicago are using this moment as a jumping point for discussions about broader issues.


"I was talking about this with my roommate and my friends and my family," said Damayanti Wallace, 21, who is from Chicago and is now studying film in Los Angeles.


Smith slapped Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, starring in fictional sequel to the 1997 film "G.I. Jane." Pinkett Smith, who announced several years ago that she has alopecia — an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss — shaves her head. After returning to his seat, Smith yelled at Rock to "keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth."


"I don't have any negative feelings about it," Wallace said. "Like I mean, it happened, and we saw both of their apologies."


But Wallace sees the incident as an avenue to many discussions.


"This is a class conversation as much as it is a race conversation, and as much as it is a critique of comedy," Wallace said.


Wallace said she does not condone violence, but examined the situation from all perspectives.


"What we also have to recognize is like, the people we put on these pedestals are human," Wallace said. "I think what we really saw was like a breaking point."


So how do solve conflict before reaching that breaking point? It's a topic of discussion among Jemina Lyle's high school students.


"This generation of kids is dealing with anxiety we have never dealt with," Lyle said.


And some students couldn't help but talk about the lashing out with teachers – many, Lyle says, about how to approach conflict.


"It was a variety of responses," she said.


Lyle mentors teens at an alternative school called Association House in Humboldt Park - a place where zero tolerance for actions does not exist.


"Because that's not realistic. Conflict happens," Lyle said. "And the important thing for parents, as well as for teachers and administrators and counselors and mentors and all those people, are to help our students; our young people try to figure out how to navigate conflict in a way that is constructive. That's why we have to give space for conversation."


And an incident seen around the world is now used to teach lessons close to home.


Lyle says an important part is following up, and later taking action to work on feelings that might lead to confrontation.