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Idris Elba Opens Up About Hollywood Racism and Why He “Stopped Describing Myself as a Black Actor”



Idris Elba is getting candid about racism he has experienced in Hollywood and his reasons behind having a career in entertainment.

In an interview with Esquire magazinepublished online Wednesday, the Luther: The Fallen Sun star said, “I stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realized it put me in a box.”

“As humans, we are obsessed with race. And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth. Racism should be a topic for discussion, sure. Racism is very real. But from my perspective, it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be,” Elba explained. “We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: It’s just skin.”

The Beasts of No Nation The actor said that he gets asked a lot if he has experienced racism, which he clarified that he has, but that he doesn’t “go to my Black friends, in conversation, and ask them to tell me about racism.”

“I’m not any more Black because I’m in a white area, or more Black because I’m in a Black area. I’m Black,” he added. “And that skin stays with me no matter where I go, every day, through Black areas with white people in it, or white areas with Black people in it. I’m the same Black.”

When talking about why he chose a career in entertainment, the Losers The star explained that he “didn’t become an actor because I didn’t see black people doing it and I wanted to change that. I did it because I thought that’s a great profession and I could do a good job at it.”

“As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first Black to do this or that,” Elba continued. “Well, it’s the same as it would be if I were white. It’s the first time for me. I don’t want to be the first black. I’m the first Idris.”

As for representation in Hollywood and his journey, he said he’s “aware that, in many cases, I might be the first to look like me to do a certain thing. And that’s good, to leave as part of my legacy. So that other people, Black kids, but also white kids growing up in the circumstances I grew up in, are able to see there was a kid who came from Canning Town who ended up doing what I do. It can be done.”

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