Will Smith says Philadelphia police called him the N-word on ‘more than 10 occasions’

While reflecting on his childhood, the Fresh Prince remembered how Mayor Frank Rizzo governed Philly's law enforcement with 'an iron hand'

Will Smith attends the Premiere Of Netflix’s “Bright” at Regency Village Theatre on December 13, 2017 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Two-time Academy Award-nominated actor, Will Smith, opened up to Angela Rye about his experiences with police growing up in Philadelphia. 

“I grew up under, you know, Mayor (Frank) Rizzo. He went from the chief of police to becoming the mayor and he had an iron hand,” said the actor, 51. “I’ve been called n— by the cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions, right? I got stopped frequently.”

READ MORE: Apple acquires Will Smith’s ‘Emancipation’ in largest film festival deal ever

“Something as simple as Black. Lives. Matter.” Smith said emphasizing each word, “What’s the f**king point of contention?” 

The interview took place on Rye’s podcast, “On One with Angela Rye.

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Rye asked Smith how he is managing his emotions during the coronavirus pandemic and the protests against police brutality that have both swept the nation.

“For the world to see what we’ve been saying for hundreds of years. My grandmother taught me to be thankful for these opportunities, to be thankful for your pain. The entire globe has stood up and said to the African American people, ‘we see you, we hear you. How can we help?’” Smith said, “We’ve never been there before.” 

Will Smith AP thegrio.com
File – In this Dec. 13, 2017, file photo, Will Smith arrives at the U.S. premiere of “Bright” in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

The lengthy conversation also touched on Smith’s youth attending Catholic schools where his white classmates couldn’t understand his experiences. 

“White kids were happy when the cops showed up, and my heart always started pounding,” Smith said. “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.”

READ MORE: Apple acquires Will Smith’s ‘Emancipation’ in largest film festival deal ever

Smith also praised those who have been actively protesting. He said that he understands the “rage” that many are feeling, but he is grateful that the protests have largely been peaceful. 

“Peaceful protests,” Smith explained, “put up a mirror to the demonic imagery of your oppressor. The more still you are in your peaceful protests, the more clear the mirror is to the oppressor for the world to see and for them to see themselves.”

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