Idris Elba reacts to backlash over not calling himself a ‘Black actor’
“So for you to turn around and say to me, I’m ‘denying my Blackness.’ On what grounds?”
In February, Idris Elba sparked heavy criticism online after he told Esquire U.K. that he had stopped describing himself as a “Black actor” because of the limitations he thought it placed on his career. Now, he is addressing the backlash.
The Luther actor said he finds it “really difficult” to have an opinion as a celebrity in a new interview with The Guardian, explaining that his words are “overly scrutinized, taken out of context,” and “thrown into some sort of bullshit, zeitgeisty social media argument.” He then referenced the recent controversy as an example of how social media can quickly descend into a “conflict incubator.”
“Me saying I don’t like to call myself a Black actor is my prerogative. That’s me, not you,” he told the outlet. “So for you to turn around and say to me, I’m ‘denying my Blackness.’ On what grounds? Did you hear that? Where am I denying it? And what for? It’s just stupid. Whatever.”
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 01: Idris Elba arrives at the global premiere of “Luther: The Fallen Sun” at BFI IMAX Waterloo on March 01, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
| Credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage
While speaking with Esquire last month, Elba said “the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other” if we focused on our similarities, not our differences.
“As humans, we are obsessed with race. And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth,” he said. “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.”
He continued, “I stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realized it put me in a box. We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: It’s just skin. Rant over.”
The comments caused an uproar online after the article was published, with some suggesting, as Elba noted in the Guardian story, that he was denying his Blackness by not referring to himself as a Black actor. However, John Boyega showed his support for Elba and encouraged others to focus on the pigeonholing in Hollywood that the Thor: Love and Thunder actor was originally calling out.
“I think we should fixate on who is typecasting and putting actors in boxes because of this. Not on making weird adjustments for them,” Boyega wrote on Twitter. “We continuously focus on what we have to do so they don’t do this or that. Very worrying. We BLACK and that’s that.”
Elba previously took to Twitter to address the negative reaction to his remarks after the article was released.
“There isn’t a soul on this earth that can question whether I consider myself a BLACK MAN or not,” he wrote. “Being an ‘actor’ is a profession, like being an ‘architect.’ They are not defined by race. However, if YOU define your work by your race, that is your [sic] perogative.”
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