Will Smith Opens Up About Being Racially Abused By Police While Growing Up

by : Lucy Connolly on : 09 Jul 2020 11:49
Will Smith Opens Up About Being Racially Abused By Police While Growing UpWill Smith/YouTube/Overbrook High School

Will Smith has opened up about his personal experience with police and racism, saying he was called the n-word by police officers more than 10 times growing up in Philadelphia.

The 51-year-old actor was a guest on the On 1 with Angela Rye podcast, hosted by the attorney and political commentator, when she asked how he personally had been affected by racism.


Smith revealed how he was ‘frequently’ stopped by police and was the target of racial slurs as a young Black man, while explaining the disparities that existed between him and his White counterparts.

You can watch the interview below:

During the interview, Smith spoke about growing up under Frank Rizzo’s tenure as police commissioner and later mayor, describing him as having an ‘iron hand’.


Rizzo is remembered by many for his harsh policing, in particular with regards to his treatment of Black and gay communities, and has become a symbol of racism and division since his death in 1991.

So much so, in fact, that a commemorative statue of the former mayor was removed by city officials last month in the wake of George Floyd’s killing after protesters vandalised it, set it on fire and wrapped ropes around it in an attempt to topple it to the ground.

Frank Rizzo StatuePA Images

‘I’ve been called n***** by the cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions,’ Smith said. ‘I got stopped frequently. So I understand what it’s like to be in those circumstances with the police, to feel like you’ve been occupied, it’s an occupying force.’


He went on to speak about his experience of attending a private Catholic school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, saying that’s when he became aware of the disparities between White and Black people and where he learned to understand inequality ‘in a really interesting way’.

Smith continued:

White kids were happy when the cops showed up, and my heart always started pounding. There’s a part of this that people who don’t grow up in that, you just can’t comprehend. You just can’t comprehend what it feels like to feel like you live in an occupied territory.

will smith talks about racismWill Smith/YouTube

Speaking about the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests sparked by the killing of Floyd, Smith said he was ‘deeply encouraged by the innate connectivity of the protesters globally’.

‘Peaceful protests put up a mirror to the demonic imagery of your oppressor,’ he explained. ‘And the more still you are in your peaceful protest, the more clear the mirror is to the oppressor for the world to see and for them to see themselves.’

You can listen to the whole interview here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk

Most Read StoriesMost Read

Film and TV

Super Mario Bros Movie Announced And People Have Some Serious Concerns About The Cast

Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Celebrity, Now, philadelphia, Police, Racism, Will Smith


Will Smith/YouTube and 1 other
  1. Will Smith/YouTube

    A conversation on being Black in America with @Angela Rye

  2. Apple Podcasts

    Will Smith Speaks On One with Angela Rye