During a recent interview with Angela Rye, Will Smith opened up about his experiences with racism. The actor said that he has been called the n-word on “more than 1o occasions” by police in his hometown of Philadelphia.
“I grew up in Philadelphia,” Smith recalled. “I grew up under Mayor Rizzo. He went from the chief of police to becoming the mayor, and he had an iron hand.” (Rizzo was known for pushing an anti-desegregation platform. A statue honoring Rizzo near City Hall in the city of Brotherly Love was removed amid national protests against racial injustice and police brutality, earlier this month, as NPR reported.)
“I’ve been called [the n-word] by the cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions,” Smith added. “I got stopped frequently. So I understand what it’s like to be in those circumstances with the police.”
The 51-year-old actor also shared a bit about his experience attending a Catholic school in the suburbs, where he saw first-hand “the disparities” between relationships that white people had with the cops versus members of the Black community.
Will Smith told Rye he’s been happy to see Black Lives Matter protests garnering vast support and recognition globally.
“We are in a circumstance that we’ve never been in before,” Smith said of the protests. “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.”
The actor went on to say that although he understands the “rage” people feel after years of “oppression” from systemically racist institutions and individuals, Smith noted that “it also can be really dangerous.”
“You got to be careful not to be consumed by your own rage, and that’s something that I’ve worked really hard on,” he said. “Peaceful protests put a mirror to the demonic imagery of your oppressor. And the more still you are in your peaceful protest, the more clear the mirror is for your oppressor — for the world to see and for them to see themselves.”
“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. I was deeply encouraged by the innate connectivity of the protesters, globally,” Smith continued.
However, Smith noted that there are still some “people that have made poisonous conclusions and have false beliefs, and they’ve got insane narratives running through their minds.”
Nevertheless, Smith is hopeful the next generation will recognize the “lovelessness” and enact change in the future.
“I am pledging my unending devotion to the evolution of my community and the evolution of my country, and ultimately the world, towards the greatest harmony that we’ll be able to create,” Smith said. “I am happy to be alive during this time, and to serve.”