Hollywood star Anthony Mackie has had to face a bit of a backlash this week, following controversial statements the 37-year-old actor recently made during an interview with TheGrio.com regarding racial profiling. In that interview, Mackie was reported as saying that he warned his nephew about how growing dreadlocks would lead to people perceiving him a certain way.
“Like, my nephew wanted to grow dreadlocks. I’m like — fine, I’ll sit you down and I’ll watch The First 48 with you and everybody you see on that show, that’s doing something wrong, they’re black dudes with dreadlocks,” Mackie said. “So, do you want to be seen as part of the problem or do you want to be an individual?
“Let’s just say you have locs and you’re walking down the street,” he continued. “The police pull you over and say you fit the description of somebody. You start yelling and arguing with the cops. Next thing you know you pressed up against the wall going to jail for something you’re not even involved in just because you look like somebody and you don’t know how to handle yourself.”
The Captain America star immediately came under fire on social media for the comments and after the wave of criticism, he fired back at TheGrio; claiming that his words were taken out of context. During an exclusive interview with rolling out, Mackie addressed the controversy— but held firm to his position regarding profiling and perception.
“You cannot have a conversation about profiling without understanding perception,” Mackie said during our conversation. “If you don’t sit down with every young man and every young woman you know of whatever color and have a conversation about profiling, you are doing them a huge disadvantage.
“I used the example of dreadlocks, because my nephew said he wanted to grow dreadlocks.If my nephew had said he wanted a bald head, I would’ve sat my nephew down and showed him a movie or a program of someone with a bald head and told him he would’ve been perceived in this manner. It’s about perception. So you have to deal with that perception accordingly. So if you’re going to grow dreadlocks, if you’re going to shave your head, if you’re going to wear your pants sagging, if you’re going to wear a certain type of shoes, if you’re going to do a certain thing in a public arena — you have to deal with the consequences that comes along with that and act accordingly. That comes along with being an individual. If you are an individual, you don’t do what the next man does. You do what you want to do. If you want to grow dreadlocks, as my nephew said he wanted to grow, I told you him ‘you’re going to need to know how to act accordingly with your locs.’ You need to know when they went from being ‘locs’ to being ‘dreadlocks’ and what that means. You need to know when police confront you, you need to say ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ ‘Are we done, sir?’ I’m not saying that the police are right. I’m not saying that you’re wrong. I’m saying this is the reality that we live in. Until we have that conversation amongst us about how we handle ourselves with police, we are in a constant perpetual state of problems.
“The perception is the problem. The perception has been there for generations. So where do you start? You can’t start a conversation by having a broad conversation about everything that’s the problem. Because young black men are dying on the streets because of perception. So let’s start there. Let’s start saving young Black men from being killed senselessly. Handle the perception angle, handle the stereotyping angle, handle the profiling angle. And then we deal with everything else.”
Mackie went on to address the activism of the past several months, but also voiced criticisms of those who he feels aren’t willing to hear any perspective outside of their own.
“I think that’s what Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X — that’s what they wanted,” Mackie said in regard to the social awareness and activism that has surfaced amongst so many young Black Americans. “Every movement that’s happened in this country has happened because young people have said stood up and said ‘We’re not going to take it anymore.’ I think the problem comes when you make a statement to start a conversation and everyone flies off the deep end. That’s not a conversation. The most important thing in a relationship is shutting up and listening. I think a hashtag can’t solve our problems. I think when someone says something; you need to sit back, think about what they said and then question.
“The reality of it is we’re in a cycle. Nothing is being changed. I listened to a 2Pac song the other day and he was talking about police brutality! That was 20 years ago! The reality is this: if you’re doing something and it don’t work — you need to do something different. It incenses me when I say we need to deal with stereotyping and perspective and someone takes that out of context and uses it to get hits on their website. That’s detrimental to everything that has happened in the past 12 months.
“Now if you try to start a conversation [and say] ‘Listen — I don’t understand where you’re coming from,’ all of a sudden you’re a coon and an Uncle Tom. What comes out of that? What comes out of someone saying ‘I don’t understand’ and you saying ‘Shut up, you’re stupid.’ How are you helping the cause? How are you solving the problem?”