Will Smith says police have called him racial slurs multiple times
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Will Smith says police have called him racial slurs multiple times

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In an interview with Angela Rye, Will Smith discusses his encounters with Philadelphia police as a kid and the current Black Lives Matter protests.

USA TODAY

Will Smith is sharing his personal experience with police.

During a video conversation Monday with political commentator Angela Rye about being Black in America, the actor, 51, talked about racist interactions he had with police while growing up in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been called (racial slurs) by the cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions,” he said. “I got stopped frequently. So I understand what it’s like to be in those circumstances with the police.”

Smith said he understood racial disparities in an “interesting way” because he went to Catholic school in the suburbs.

“White kids were happy when the cops showed up and my heart always started pounding,” he explained. “People who don’t grow up in that, you just can’t comprehend what it feels like to feel like you live in an occupied territory.”

Smith added that he’s worked “really hard” on controlling his rage.

“Rage is justified under oppression. It also can be really dangerous,” he said. “You’ve got to be careful not to be consumed by your own rage.”

He said he’s “deeply encouraged by the innate connectivity of the protesters globally.”

He continued, “We are in a circumstance that we’ve never been in before. … The entire globe has stood up and said to the African-American people, ‘We see you and we hear you. How can we help?’ We’ve never been there before.”

Smith talked about the controversy that surrounds the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Something as simple as ‘Black lives matter’ – what’s the (expletive) point of contention? Right? The point of contention is that’s not what the person is hearing,” he said. “That’s where communication rules come in very handy. Here’s what the answer is when someone says, ‘Black lives matter’: Yes, I agree.”

Smith also discussed another controversial idea: defunding the police. 

“I think the idea of ‘defund the police’ is properly incendiary,” he explained. “The ideas are not as scary as the phrase sounds.”

More: Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lawrence and other stars who are speaking out against racism

More: 100 ways you can take action against racism right now

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