Will Smith says he’s been called the “N-word” more than 10 times by Philly cops and explains why he chose not to make a slave movie until now.
In an interview with political commentator #AngelaRye, Smith spoke on a variety of issues, including race, the #BlackLivesMatters movement, the experience of a Black male actor, and more. First, Smith spoke on how he feels about the coronavirus pandemic and the world’s response to #GeorgeFloyd’s murder.
“We are in a circumstance that we have never been before,” said Smith. “The entire globe has stood up and said to the African American people, ‘We see you and we hear you. How can we help?’ We’ve never been there before.” Rye also asked Smith to speak on the misconceptions of Black celebs and their experiences with police brutality and racism.
“I grew up under Mayor Rizzo. He went from the chief of police to becoming the mayor, and he had an iron hand,” Smith said of the former Philadelphia mayor. “I’ve been called nigger by the cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions. I got stopped frequently. So, I understand what it’s like to be in those circumstances with the police to feel like you’ve been occupied, it’s an occupying force. But I went to school in the suburbs, I went to Catholic school. So I understand what the disparities are in a really interesting way. White kids were happy when the cops showed up, and my heart always started pounding. There’s a part of this that people who don’t grow up in that you just can’t comprehend. You just can’t comprehend what it feels like you live in an occupied territory.”
He even spoke on the experience of being a Black father with two Black sons. “I got two Black sons running around so when I saw this cop with his hands in his pockets, I’m like ‘What is going on inside of a person’s mind to just be able to do that to another person?’ You know for me it comes down to after you get beyond the rage. Rage is justified under oppression. IT can also be really dangerous. You have to be careful not to be consumed by your own rage. And that’s something that I’ve worked really hard on,” said Smith. ”I was really encouraged by how powerfully this generation was able to hold that mirror, and then the response of the world seeing and responding.”
Will Smith has never portrayed a slave in a film or acted in a slave narrative film. His first will be the upcoming movie, “Emancipation.” “For my career, my whole approach to building an image and to building something that young Black kids and kids around the world could aspire to, one of the major aspects of that is…I was strictly only creating images that were of the highest intelligence, the highest power. I need to be as high and fly as high as I could possibly fly so Black kids could see that kind of fly. And really all kids could see that type of flying as something that not only white movie stars could do,” Smith explained.
For me and for what my role is in ”the community; the reason I chose “Emancipation” is more than ever…we have to understand the reality of where we came from. The problem is that theirs an absence of knowledge about the history,” Smith said. ”It’s really difficult to elevate without the knowledge and wisdom being presented in a way that the youth among us in their most powerful form are also educated.”