Will Smith: “Racism Is Actually Rare”
The Hollywood Reporter just released details of its annual awards season Actor Roundtable, and unlike the colorless actress magazine cover which sparked this thinkpiece, there’s actually a good deal of diversity. The actors’ cover features Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Benecio Del Toro, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine and Joel Edgerton. So, naturally, the conversation at some point delved into race, diversity, and discrimination.
Asked whether prejudice has affected their careers, Del Toro, who hails from Puerto Rico said “One of the first things that they said to me when I came here was, ‘Change your name.'” Looking over his career, the 48-year-old actor who starred in Sicario this year said “Maybe that’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever done, not changing my name.”
Will Smith, who will play Dr. Bennet Omalu in the much buzzed about Concussion had a bit of a different take on the question, choosing to touch on the nuance between racism and prejudice.
“My wife and I were just having this conversation, and we were going to the dictionary for ‘prejudice’ versus ‘racism.’ Everybody is prejudiced. Everybody has their life experiences that make them prefer one thing over another — it makes them prefer blond hair over a brunette; if you see somebody with dark skin walking down the street, you have a different reaction than you have [with] someone who is 5-foot-1 and white. But there is a connotation with racism of superiority: You feel that your race generally is superior. And I have to say, I live with constant prejudice, but racism is actually rare — someone who thinks their race is superior. I don’t want to work for them. I don’t want to work at that company. And the times I have come in contact with it, you get away from those people.”
Will Smith failed to acknowledge that he has the luxury to get away from the racism he for some reason thinks it’s rare, but that’s a whole different topic.
Moving on along, THR asked the men whether they think actors can do anything to combat the prejudice they come in contact with. In true Samuel give no effs Jackson fashion, the Hateful Eight actor responded with a flat out “No.” But Smith did at least point out that people in his position can impart change — should they choose to recognize things actually need to be changed.
“As actors we have the ultimate power. Historically, story combined with imagery moves humanity forward. What we do — not that it’s a responsibility, but it is the ultimate forum for changing people’s hearts and minds. So when I’m choosing a movie, I understand the global power of being able to send imagery around the world. A large part of the way that America is viewed globally is from the historical imagery that we have sent around the world through cinema. Any time I put something in the world, I am always connecting to an idea. I’m always asking, ‘Why am I making this?’ With Concussion, Dr. Bennet Omalu was deeply connected to tell the truth. And he said that truth doesn’t have a side. I thought that was such a powerful idea. Whose side are you on? Are you a Republican or a Democrat? I’m just trying to tell the truth. The truth doesn’t have a side.”
Too bad Smith didn’t choose to tell the truth that racism isn’t rare, it’s actually quite rampant.