‘It’s just skin’: Idris Elba speaks out against making everything about race, says he stopped calling himself a ‘black actor’

News & Politics

Actor Idris Elba condemned this week the overuse of racial descriptions, explaining why he no longer describes himself as a “black actor” despite being black.

Speaking with Esquire UK, Elba said humans are “obsessed” with race, in part because humans too often focus on their differences.

“As humans, we are obsessed with race. And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth,” he told the publication. “Racism should be a topic for discussion, sure. Racism is very real. But from my perspective, 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,” he revealed. “We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: It’s just skin.”

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Elba, in fact, seemed particularly annoyed by those who note his accomplishments by observing that he is the “first” black actor doing this or that.

“I didn’t become an actor because I didn’t see black people doing it and I wanted to change that. 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.”

It seems, then, that Elba would not want to be chosen to be the next James Bond, succeeding Daniel Craig, because he is black, but because he would appropriately fit the character.

Last month, Elba chided celebrities for out-of-touch advocacy.

“Some celebrity advocacy is polarizing. I think there is a consumer and someone at home that does not find it appealing, might find it a bit patronizing,” he said.

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