Acclaimed actor Will Smith says he’s been called the n-word to his face at least five times in his life, but it’s never hurt his feelings because he doesn’t consider the name-callers to be intelligent people.
While on a press tour for his six-part docuseries, Amend: The Fight for America, Smith went on the Pod Save America podcast to discuss his seemingly newfound interest in politics, how he’s been incensed by current news and the direct racism he’s experienced throughout his life.
Excited and almost baffled by Smith’s interest in joining them, the podcast hosts asked him why he’d wanted to sit with “a couple of political dorks,” before asking him what attracted him to do the Netflix limited series.
“A big part of it was that I was like everyone else, sitting home on lockdown when the George Floyd situation happened,” Smith said. “At that moment, I just, I felt like I wanted to be a part of the healing and the future of America.”
After talking to a friend whom Smith referred to as a Constitutional scholar, his interest was piqued in educating people about the 14th amendment, which he said, “is essentially the center of what we think of when we think of ourselves as American.”
“The 14th amendment is like the all-inclusive amendment that makes clear that all Americans are equal under the law,” Smith said. “In the fight for equality, almost every marginalized group in the history of this country has used the 14th amendment to fight for equal protection under the law.”
Through putting together the project, the celebrated actor said it was important to tell the story through a multi-cultural lens.
“[It’s] being able to say honestly that this is a country that was established by white men for white men,” he said.
During the discussion, Smith divulged his own bouts with direct racism, revealing that he’d been called racial slurs to his face.
“I’ve been called n****r to my face probably five or six times,” he said. “And fortunately for my psyche, I’ve never been called n****r by a smart person. I grew up with the impression that racists and racism are stupid and they were easy to get around I just had to be smarter. Now, while they were very dangerous, I had never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect.”
However, when he became a Hollywood star, he started to understand the intricacies of systemic racism.
“As I got into Hollywood I started seeing the ideals of systemic racism, but at the core of it, I noticed a difference between ignorance and evil,” he said. “They’re twins, for sure, but ignorance can be educated and evil is a much more difficult problem. And fortunately, ignorance is more prevalent than blatant evil. 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 has unfortunately been embedded in the very fibers of our country.”
According to HypeBeast, Smith was vocal during the summer 2020 protests that followed the police killings of Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Even though he admits he was incensed by the blatancy of it all, he remains hopeful.
“I am wildly hopeful that we are beyond the tipping point — Black lives aren’t going to go back to not mattering. There is a momentum behind this movement,” Smith said.