On Friday, actor Idris Elba responded to backlash from an interview with Esquire UK in which he said he had stopped describing himself as a “black actor” since it limited his career.
Elba told The Guardian in a new interview that it is “really difficult” for celebrities to have an opinion and said that his words were “overly scrutinized, taken out of context” and “thrown into some sort of bulls–t, zeitgeisty social media argument.”
“Me saying I don’t like to call myself a Black actor is my prerogative. That’s me, not you,” said Elba. “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.”
While speaking with Esquire, the “Luther” actor said, “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,” continued the actor. “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.”
Elba was slammed by several people for the comments, including one who tweeted, “He’s still black though. He can say he’s not a ‘black actor’ but that skin color isn’t going to change just cause he says that. He can still be type casted just like every other black actor.”
“He’s not wrong lmao. Many Black and POC actors have talked about being typecasted into stereotypical roles because of their race,” tweeted another, adding, “Like I don’t think he’s renouncing his Blackness. He know he Black. He’s just not othering himself and he shouldn’t.”
“He can refer to himself what ever he wants but he will still be a black actor,” said a third detractor.
Others, however, came out in defense of Elba, including “Star Wars” actor John Boyega.
“I think we should fixate on who is typecasting and putting actors in boxes because of this. Not on making weird adjustments for them,” tweeted Boyega. “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 himself later took to Twitter to speak on the controversy.
“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 prerogative.”
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