Despite his successful career in Hollywood, celebrity status and likability, actor Will Smith hasn’t been exempt from being on the receiving end of a racial slur.
During a recent appearance on the “Pod Save America” podcast with host Jon Favreau, Smith opened up about his experience growing up as a Black person in America. The “I Am Legend” star also revealed that he’s had the N-word hurled directly to his face on numerous occasions throughout his life but noted that it was never by “a smart person.”
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 06: Will Smith attends Paramount Pictures’ premiere of “Gemini Man” on October 06, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)“I’ve been called n—-r to my face probably five or six times,” the 52-year-old told Favreau. “And fortunately for my psyche, I’ve never been called n—-r by a smart person. So, I grew up with the impression that racists and racism were stupid and they were easy to get around; I just had to be smarter. While they were very dangerous, I had never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect.”
The “I Am Legend” star explained that as his career in the entertainment industry blossomed, he began to see the different forms of racism, including the varying “ideas of systemic racism.” The actor pointed out the differences between ignorance and evil, highlighting the idea that although the two were “twins for sure,” ignorance could be educated. In contrast, evil was a more perhaps ingrained trait to tackle.
He continued, “Fortunately, ignorance is more prevalent than blatant evil, so I’ve always been encouraged that the process of education and understanding could alleviate some of the more dangerous and difficult aspects of racism that have unfortunately been embedded in the very fibers of our country.”
Smith wrestles this theme and many more as host and executive producer of the new Netflix documentary, “Amend: The Fight for America.” The film zeroes in on the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship and equal civil and legal rights to African Americans and slaves who had been emancipated after the American Civil War.
The “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star said he was inspired to create the film following the protests that took place in the summer of 2020 after George Floyd’s death.
“At that moment, I felt like I wanted to be a part of the healing and the future of America. I was feeling the change that was happening in our country at that moment,” Smith told host Favreau.
Smith is adamant that change will come for the marginalized in America and says that he is “wildly hopeful.”
“In my study of the patterns, we are beyond the tipping point,” the actor expressed. “Black lives aren’t going to go back to not mattering. There’s a momentum behind this movement, and not just for Black lives, in terms of equality for all individuals under the 14th Amendment in America.”