Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic As the nation struggles with racial tensions in the wake of George Floyd‘s death and the subsequent calls to defund the police, Black actors are coming forward about the disproportionate treatment they received from law enforcement.
One such person is Will Smith, who opened up on On 1 With Angela Rye on Monday about his past brushes with Philadelphia police, which he says were unprovoked.
“I grew up under, you know, Mayor Rizzo. He went from the chief of police to becoming the mayor and he had an iron hand,” the Gemini Man actor noted. “I’ve been called n***** by the cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions, right? I got stopped frequently.”
Smith says his experiences with police are seemingly universal within the Black community. “I understand what it’s like, you know, to be in those circumstances with the police, to feel like you’ve been occupied. It’s an occupying force,” he explained.
The 51-year-old also said those interactions changed how he perceived and reacted to police when he attended Catholic school as a child.
“White kids were happy when the cops showed up, and my heart always started pounding,” he detailed. “There’s a part of this that people who don’t grow up in that you just can’t comprehend. You just can’t comprehend what it feels like to feel like you live in an occupied territory.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Smith hopes that people of different races will come to understand the unique struggles of the Black community and work together to solve them.
“The entire globe has stood up and said to the African American people, ‘We see you and we hear you. How can we help?'” said Smith, who says this development is profound because “we’ve never been there before.”
By Megan Stone
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