Hollywood star Idris Elba sparked a major debate last month when he said he no longer describes himself as a “Black actor.”
The British actor, whose fans rallied for him to be the next “James Bond,” said in an interview with Esquire UK, “Of course, I’m a member of the Black community. You say a prominent one. But when I go to America, I’m a prominent member of the British community. ‘Oh, U.K.’s in the house!’ If we spent half the time not talking about the differences but the similarities between us, the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other.”
The “Luther” star said he has stopped calling himself “a Black actor” after it became limiting.
“As humans, we are obsessed with race,” Elba noted. “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. 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.”
But he noted that it was a lack of diversity in Hollywood that promoted him to enter acting in the first place. Elba recalled becoming an actor because he “didn’t see Black people doing it, and I wanted to change that.”
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“I did it because I thought that’s a great profession, and I could do a good job at it,” he added. “As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first Black to do this or that. 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 Idris.”
But his remarks didn’t sit well with some, forcing Elba to defend his comments.
In a later interview with The Guardian, he complained it’s hard to have an opinion when you are in the spotlight.
He said 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.”
Elba also twitter, “There isn’t a soul on this earth that can question whether I consider myself a BLACK MAN or not. 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 Perogative. Ah lie?”
Idris Elba arrives at the Oscars on March 12, 2023, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)