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Will Smith says he has never been called the N-word by 'a smart person'

The "Bad Boys" actor said that growing up he "never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect."
/ Source: TODAY

In sharing his experience of growing up Black in America on a new podcast, Will Smith said he has been called the N-word to his face multiple times, but never by "a smart person."

Smith, 52, talked to host Jon Favreau on the "Pod Save America" podcast about how experiences with racism during his adolescence have shaped his worldview today.

(Warning: The video below contains an obscenity.)

"I've been called n----- to my face probably five or six times," he said. "Fortunately for my psyche, I've never been called n----- by a smart person. So, I grew up with the impression that racists and racism were stupid and they were easy to get around, I just had to be smarter. While they were very dangerous, I had never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect."

His comments echoed those that Smith made last July to political commentator Angela Rye in which he said that police officers called him the N-word "on more than 10 occasions" while he was growing up in Philadelphia.

When he became a star actor, he saw deeper layers of racism.

"As I went into Hollywood I started seeing the ideas of systemic racism," he told Favreau.

Smith added that there's a difference between ignorance and evil, although "they're twins for sure."

"But ignorance can be educated, and evil is a much more difficult problem,” he said. "Fortunately, ignorance is more prevalent than blatant evil, so I’ve always been encouraged that the process of education and understanding could alleviate some of the more dangerous and difficult aspects of racism that have unfortunately been embedded in the very fibers of our country."

The "Bad Boys" star addresses race as the host and executive producer of a new Netflix documentary called "Amend: The Fight for America." The film examines the 14th Amendment, which was ratified during Reconstruction in 1868 and was part of a group of amendments abolishing slavery by granting citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States, while guaranteeing them "equal protection of the laws."

Smith, who is currently writing his autobiography, was inspired to create the film while watching the protests against racial injustice this past summer in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

"At that moment, I felt like I wanted to be a part of the healing and the future of America," he said on the podcast. "I was feeling the change that was happening in our country at that moment."

He believes the protests are a sign that concrete change will happen in how minorities are treated in America.

"I am wildly hopeful," he said. "In my study of the patterns, we are beyond the tipping point. Black lives aren't going to go back to not mattering. There's a momentum behind this movement, and not just for Black lives, in terms of equality for all individuals under the 14th Amendment in America."

Smith also did not rule out potentially trying to be part of the movement by entering politics one day.

"I absolutely have an opinion," he said. "I'm optimistic, I'm hopeful, I believe in understanding between people, I believe in the possibility of harmony, so I will certainly do my part, whether it remain artistic or at some point ventures into the political arena."