"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 now while they were very dangerous," he said.
Will Smith opened up about his experiences of growing up as a Black man in the US and the racism he's encountered over the years during his appearance on a podcast this week. The 52-year-old broached the subject on Monday's episode of the "Pod Save America" podcast — hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor — wherein he was asked how his "personal experiences with racism, prejudice, and discrimination" have shaped his world view. "I've been called [n-word] to my face probably five or six times. And fortunately for my psyche, I've never been called [n-word] by a smart person," Smith replied.
If you have @netflix, I highly recommend watching Amend - The Fight for America. I would go one step further and say if you are educator, your students should be encouraged to watch this amazing documentary on the fight for Equality. #AmendTheFightForAmerica #14thAmendment pic.twitter.com/74ASbSOGHK— Gregg Bishop (@GreggBishopNYC) March 3, 2021
"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 now while they were very dangerous. I had never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect," the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and I Am Legend actor continued. Smith added that as he grew older and pursued a career in Hollywood, he started seeing systemic racism all around him. "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 and evil is a much more difficult problem," he said.
I just started watching this 6-episode docu series w/ Will Smith and many others. It's excellent. https://t.co/f5Qhvaso13— Jeff Waldman (@JeffWaldmanHR) February 27, 2021
"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 added. The A-list actor, producer, father and social media phenom appeared on the political podcast to promote the Netflix series Amend: The Fight for America, which examines the "evolving, often lethal, fight for equal rights in America through the lens of the US Constitution's 14th Amendment."
"Ignorance can be educated. Evil is a much more difficult problem. And fortunately, ignorance is more prevalent than blatant evil."— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) March 1, 2021
Will Smith talks growing up as a Black man in America, running for office, and more on a new pod: https://t.co/gJRsqcKfeU pic.twitter.com/4qjQRtDrqG
This isn't the first time Smith opened up about his personal experiences with racism. During an appearance on the podcast On 1 with Angela Rye — hosted by attorney and political commentator Angela Rye — last year, he spoke about cops racial profiling him on several occasions. "I'd been called [the n-word] by cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions," Smith told Rye. "I got stopped frequently. So I understand what it's like to be in those circumstances with police." He revealed that he saw firsthand the disparities between growing up White and Black by attending a private Catholic school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where "white kids were really happy when the cops showed up, and my heart always started pounding."
"There's a part of this that people who don't grow up in that, you just can't comprehend," Smith added at the time. "You just can't comprehend what it feels like to feel like you live in an occupied territory." Meanwhile, on his latest podcast appearance, Smith was also asked about his views on joining politics and whether he would seriously take the leap into political office after making jokes about it in the past. The star didn't entirely rule out the possibility of him venturing into politics, saying: "I think for now I'll let that office get cleaned up a little bit and then I'll consider that at some point down the line. I absolutely have an opinion, I'm optimistic, I'm hopeful, I believe in understanding between people and I believe in the possibility of harmony. I will certainly do my part, whether it remains artistic or, at some point, ventures into the political arena."
Smith last hinted at a turn in politics back in 2015 when he told CBS News's "Sunday Morning" that the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's statements would drive him to run for office. "If people keep saying all the crazy kinds of stuff they've been saying on the news lately about walls and Muslims, they're going to force me into the political arena," he said at the time, clarifying that if he does get into politics, he would aim for the top spot. "I mean, I gotta be the President. Come on! What else would I run for?"