While promoting his new film, Black and White, Anthony Mackie reached pretty far and ended up landing in some hot water when he shared his thoughts on dreadlocks and their connection to racial profiling. It also didn’t help that he said in the same interview that Selma didn’t get much Oscar love because “people are just tired of being bombarded with race right now.” That clearly wasn’t one of his better chats…
When people online started throwing around “uncle Tom” and “idiot” as word spread of his alleged comments, Mackie went on to say that the reporter who interviewed him, Chris Witherspoon of The Grio, took his comments out of context and spliced his dreadlock statements for a headline. Here is what was shared by The Grio in the original story they posted:
“I think the problem with racial profiling is the actions that come along with it. Like my nephew wanted to grow dreadlocks. I’m like fine, I’ll sit you down and I’ll watch “The First 48″ with you and everybody you see on that show, that’s doing something wrong, they’re black dudes with dreadlocks. So, do you want to be seen as part of the problem or do you want to be an individual? Cause even if you ain’t doing anything wrong…Let’s just say you have locks and you walking down the street. The police pull you over and say you fit the description of somebody. You start yelling and arguing with the cops. Next thing you know you pressed up against the wall going to jail for something you’re not even involved in just because you look like somebody and you don’t know how to handle yourself.”
To many, his comments made it seem as though he was saying that if you wear dreadlocks as a black man, that could get you racially profiled. But that’s not the point that Mackie claims he was trying to get across. In an interview with EurWeb soon after, he set the record straight. He also blamed Witherspoon for the confusion over his statements, claiming that the reporter lied on him:
“What’s really sad is, this is someone I’ve known for about four years. And it’s a black dude. So I felt like we could sit and have a candid conversation about race, and he wouldn’t take soundbites, he would let the entire conversation live, and he didn’t. That’s what frustrates me. Mr. Witherspoon really pissed me off because I trusted him, and he lied.
The reality of it is this, I said my nephew came to me and said he wanted dreadlocks. We were talking about profiling. And I said if you have a conversation about profiling and you don’t talk about the different aspects of profiling, if you don’t talk about perception, you are doing everyone in your family a great disservice. I don’t care who it is. If you have a young black man, a young black woman, a young white man, a young white woman, you sit them down and talk about perception. That’s what adults do. I said my nephew came to me and he said, ‘I’m a grow dreadlocks.’ Now speaking as someone who had dreadlocks, let’s start there, speaking as someone who had dreadlocks, I sat my nephew down, I turned on “First 48″ because it’s one of my favorite shows. There are all these young black men being arrested, killed, the majority of ’em have dreadlocks. It’s a phenomenon now. Young men want dreadlocks because it’s cool. So I told him, ‘You will be perceived as this. If you wear your pants hanging off of your behind, if you wear your shoes a certain way, if you have tattoos all up your neck, you can be perceived as this. And with perception comes profiling. So, you can be part of the problem of perception or you can be an individual. Now when I say individual, that’s a completely different connotation, because when you’re an individual, that teaches you how to deal with police. So if you have dreadlocks, and police profile you, you say ‘Yes officer, no officer, are we done oficer?’ You never raise your voice, you never talk slick, because you’re in a fight now that you can’t win because you don’t have the power. When you’re in shark-infested waters, you have to acknowledge everything as a shark until proven otherwise. And right now, young black men are in shark-infested waters. If we don’t give them the tools to make it out of that water, we are doing them a disservice. So it really upset me, that Chris focused on what I said about dreadlocks when that is an example. I don’t care if you have dreadlocks, I had dreadlocks. I don’t care if you’re baldheaded. I don’t care if you have a wacky tacky bush. I don’t care. The idea is perception. And that’s something you can’t clear up with 160 characters. But people don’t want to listen, they want to take the easy way out. You can’t say the police are right, you can’t say that black people are right. You can’t say that police are wrong, you can’t say that black people are wrong. What you can say is, ‘I’m here. Talk so I can listen.'”
For the record, original video that The Grio posted later to defend themselves shows that they did leave out this tidbit from Mackie’s comments:
“I feel like at a certain point and time, we as men have to set ourselves apart from everyone else. You and I have to be very different. We might look alike, we might have the same educational background, but I know how to handle myself as Anthony Mackie, and you better know how to handle yourself as an individual. And I feel like now we’re all handling ourselves the same way, and that’s part of the problem.”
After reading his broken down views on racial profiling, are they much different from his conversation with Witherspoon? You can watch the full and unedited version below.
And here are his comments to EurWeb, which you can hear for yourself: