Many of us are pleasantly suffering under the reality that a know-nothing politician-come-lately has managed to place a death grip on the narrative of the 2016 presidential election, for no other reason than he is famous and willing to say stupid things about race.
Donald Trump’s rise from political sideshow to months-long run as frontrunner of the Republican presidential primary can be attributed to numerous factors, but if there’s been any singular driving force of his campaign, it is his stardom. Whether or not he’s successful in his bid to become the GOP nominee for president in 2016 remains to be seen. But no matter what happens, he is already a success in that he’s forced many to take his campaign seriously for far longer than they ever intended (or desired) to. As a result, I cringe at the thought that history could repeat itself sooner rather than later.
Although Kanye West has also declared himself a future presidential candidate, his inability to even commit to an album release date makes me seriously question West’s seriousness. Even if he did run, well, have you heard Kanye West talk at length lately? There’s not much to fear there.
There is, however, one other celebrity who’s since teased a run for office that I hope he seriously reconsiders.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Will Smith opened up about a potential political campaign, noting, “I’m a climber, so if I see a mountain, I have to climb it. I’m not a camper; I don’t like hanging in one place too long.” The walking Instagram inspirational meme went on to add, “So I think at this point, I’m elevating my ability to be useful in the world. I think that that’s what my grandmother always hoped, that I would make myself useful to people in this lifetime.”
When it comes to his chances, the Concussion actor explained: “As I look at the political landscape, I think that there might be a future out there for me. They might need me out there. This is the first year that I’ve been incensed to a level that I can’t sleep, you know? So I’m feeling that at some point, in the near future, I will have to lend my voice to the conversation in a somewhat different way.”
More recently, Smith told CBS Sunday Morning that Trump may “force” him to run. “If people keep saying all the crazy kinds of stuff they’ve been saying on the news lately about walls and Muslims, they’re going to force me into the political arena.”
I absolutely adore Will Smith and his contributions to entertainment, but when it comes to politics, the world doesn’t need a sequel to Ronald Reagan. The first one was bad enough. And while I don’t find Smith to be as awful a person as the former California governor turned two-time terrible president, he’s not remotely progressive when it comes to race. And in the next election and every one thereafter, we don’t need more Black faces in the political arena downplaying the role racism plays in our daily lives.
Indeed, in that same roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter, Smith claimed, “Everybody is prejudiced. Everybody has their life experiences that make them prefer one thing over another.” Smith elaborated further: “There’s a connotation in racism of superiority. I live with constant prejudice, but racism is actually rare.”
The problem is, Smith is playing a senseless game of semantics. Moreover, the prejudice he is speaking of from White people is fueled by racism, so the point he’s trying to make only exists within his mind. There are also far too many varied studies tied to racial discrimination on numerous fronts readily available for anyone silly enough to believe that racism is rare in American society.
Smith, like Pharrell, like Kanye and other famous Black folks the Internet has dismissed as “New Blacks,” is aloof to the realities of race in this country because his wealth has afforded him a certain level of privilege. That is a privilege most of us will never experience. It is also a privilege few of us can afford to tolerate from a potential political candidate.
I want more Black people in office, notably in more high profile positions. There is a dearth of them, particularly Black women in statewide office (as recently reported by the Washington Post). In theory, a Black celebrity with resources could help alleviate some of those problems. But a Black politician—famous or not—who doesn’t understand how detrimental racism still is towards the Black community would be utterly useless.
So, Will Smith, with all due respect, find some other mountain to climb. Please just stay in Hollywood. You could do a lot of good with the rest of your life, but I highly doubt you could in politics. Not talking that way about racism anyway.