Idris Elba took to Twitter to double down on why he said he no longer identifies himself as a Black actor. In an initial interview with Esquire UK, the Luther actor said that though he is a leading figure in the Black community, such classification can hinder progress.
“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 50-year-old said. “As humans, we are obsessed with race. And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth.”
Elba then went ahead to say that inasmuch as “racism is very real,” he feels “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,” he added.
The British actor also said that his decision to pursue a career in the entertainment industry did not stem from a desire to make a mark as a Black man. “I did it because I thought that’s a great profession and I could do a good job at it,” he said. “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 the first Idris.”
But the Suicide Squad actor received backlash on social media, causing him to clarify his initial statement on Twitter. “There isn’t a soul on this earth that can question whether I consider myself a BLACK MAN or not,” he started. “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?”
A section of fans, however, did not buy his explanation. A Twitter user who commented on his post said his decision to no longer tag himself as a Black actor was “disingenuous because we all know removing the ‘black’ tag doesn’t mean black actors will get more roles and not typecasted.”
“Even when they are super talented. We didn’t decide to make it about our race, they did. You shouldn’t have to disconnect with your blackness to be your best,” the user added.