Will Smith says he’s been called the N-word to his face — but never by anyone intelligent.
On Monday’s episode of Pod Save America, the Bad Boys for Life actor, 52, talked about racism in America while growing up in West Philadelphia and then working in Hollywood. While he experienced it, he said it was never “by a smart person.”
“I’ve been called n***** to my face probably five or six times,” said Smith, who was promoting Netflix’s Amend: The Fight for America, which he hosts and is about the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
He continued, “Fortunately for my psyche, I’ve never been called n***** by a smart person.”
Because of that, Smith said he grew up “with the impression that racists and racism were stupid. And they were easy to get around, I just had to be smarter.”
Smith added that racism and racists are obviously “very dangerous,” but he “never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect.”
When he went to Hollywood, first as the star of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “I started seeing the ideas of systemic racism. But at the core of it, I noticed a difference between ignorance and evil. Now, they’re twins for sure, but ignorance can be educated. Evil is a much more difficult problem. Fortunately, ignorance is more prevalent than blatant evil.”
He added, “I’ve always been encouraged that the process of education and understanding could alleviate some of more dangerous and difficult aspects of racism that have unfortunately been embedded in the very fibers of our country.”
Last year, Smith spoke out amid the Black Lives Matter protests and revealed that, during his childhood in Philadelphia, he’d been called that racial slur on multiple occasions by police.
“I got stopped frequently. So I understand what it’s like to be in those circumstances with the police,” he said while talking about George Floyd’s death on On 1 With Angela Rye in July. “White kids were happy when the cops showed up. And my heart always started pounding.”
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