Comedy, drama and singing makes Jamie Foxx a triple threat in the entertainment industry. But his career challenges and a recent encounter with the police remind him that being rich, Black and male make him a triple threat in American society as well. In a recent interview with RollingOut.com, he shared his struggles being Black in Hollywood and his recent tense encounter with police.
“Keenan Ivory Wayans taught me a lot of s—” Foxx recalls, before relaying the best advice the eldest Wayans star gave him. “Whatever you do — as an African American entertainer, you’ve got to be the best at it. We don’t settle for mediocre. Being on ‘In Living Color’ gave me the DNA and the work ethic to get things done. When you talk about the struggles of Black Hollywood, there was always a struggle. They would always pick one. In the ’60s, there was Redd Foxx. Seventies, it was Richard Pryor. Eighties, it was just Eddie Murphy. [But in the] ’90s? ‘In Living Color,’ the Wayans [family], [Chris] Rock, the Kings of Comedy, Chris Tucker, Kevin Hart, [Dave] Chappelle — there [are] a lot of people on the comedy side really flourishing now. Things are opening up and I know Chris Rock did a great article about the struggles of it, but also the hope at the end of it; because if you look at Tyler Perry, he’s doing his own thing,” Foxx explains.
Foxx is careful not to dismiss the progress that has been made, but he knows more progress can be made.
“Although it’s still a struggle, we’re headed in, I think, a great direction. If you look at the movies that are being made now … [and actors like] Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, these dudes are coming. Now it’s time for people like myself, who’ve been in it for a while, to make sure we turn around and make sure we support them and give them the opportunity to keep moving things along,” he says.
“My record company says ‘Well, Jamie, you’re an urban artist …,’ ” Foxx says, shaking his head. “But my audience is everybody. I worked hard to make that. I’m in Rome, walking around with kids who are 8 or 9 and know me. I’m pitching something to some executives and they’re like ‘Maybe, it’s too urban.’ And I said, ‘let me take you to a Lil Wayne concert — the rapper. So we go. It’s sold out and I ask the executive ‘Turn around and tell me where you see the urban section.’ And he looked around and sees 20,000 White arms [in the air.] They [the kids] ain’t trippin’ on it.”
Although today, you see young and middle age white people admiring Black athletes and entertainers, unfortunately, that does not always translate to that white person’s entire family and definitely not the police as recent racial unrest centered around police brutality proves.
“We gotta be able to see it from each other’s lens,” he says. “Me being an African American entertainer — [I] still get nervous when the cops pull me over,” he says, before telling Rollingout.com a story about a recent experience he had while driving with his friend, actor Tyrin Turner (best known for playing the lead in 1993’s Menace II Society). “I got stopped a few weeks ago. I’m driving in my neighborhood, which is predominantly White. And I’m feeling White — I got my top down and my Rolls Royce like ‘Wow, this is a great, White day!’ With my boy … we’re riding down 101 in L.A., chilling [on a] Sunday. All of a sudden, the cops get behind me. And I’m like ‘OK, the cops are behind me, but it’s a great day and I’m really mainstream.’ But he turns his lights on and I’m thinking ‘It couldn’t be me.’ And I actually move over and say ‘Yeah, go get ‘em! Go get those guys’ and he was like ‘It’s you — pull it over!’ and when he yelled at me, he yelled like I was crazy. He talked to me like I wasn’t human.”
Now, here’s the challenge of being Black in America. Really, the first goal when encountering a police officer is surviving the encounter. This is the wise thing to do and something that every Black male must learn to deal with. Even the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has discussed how do deal with wisely with a racism police officer.
“But I said ‘let me look through his lens right quick and how he’s seeing me.’ So I said ‘Foxx, de-escalate.’ Had I not … there’s no telling what could’ve happened.”
A Black man can see things from the perspective of a white officer, because most Black men have been educated in a school system that taught respect of white men and it’s reinforced in every institution in this country, but can that same white officer see things from a Black male perspective when they have not been properly taught about who Black people are and how we went from pyramid builders to project dwellers.
“So you pull up and there’s a kid who’s jaywalking — no big thing,” Foxx says, referencing the Brown murder. “But when you do tell him to get out of the street, let’s say he is an a–hole. Let’s say he’s rapping and all the things you believe a Black person to be — but you know he’s a teenager. Why not take that moment to teach? Say ‘Listen, I’m going to [call backup to] take you downtown and I’m going to call your parents and have your parents come down and I’m going to explain to them that he was disrespectful to me today and I wanted you guys to know that and I wanted to have this conversation because six months from now I don’t want to see him back here in a different situation …’ I want to use this moment to teach.
“And then, we would’ve never heard of this cop. And 15 years from now, that kid who was graduating from high school and went on to college and maybe he was being rambunctious that day, he sees that cop in the community and he says ‘I f—- with dude because when I was a kid, I was acting like a whatever and he taught me a lesson.’ That’s what you do as an authoritative figure.”
“What was the infraction?” he asks, rhetorically. “Guy selling cigarettes — he ends up dead. Guy was jaywalking — he ends up dead. Now, is it something going on with the way police are trained? Look at the kid who was in Aurora, Colorado, who came in and sprayed and killed 12 people. How many times did they shoot him? They didn’t shoot him — they just apprehended him. He just murdered 12 people. [It’s the] same with the other kid who was 23 years old, who murdered six people. They apprehended him.”
“What that tells me, is we have to have an uncomfortable conversation about race,” the star says. “I know I can say ‘when I see a police officer I get nervous.’ And I’m Jamie Foxx. As soon as they stop me, I tell ‘em, ‘You know I’m panicking. I’m nervous. Tell me what to do.’ But can a police officer say ‘I’m afraid of every Black person I see?’ Or ‘I don’t like that Black person?’ Can we really have that conversation?”