When Anthony Mackie told BET during an interview that he’d love to run Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Twitter revolted. Me? I just brushed it off as another lazy statement from one of my favorite actors who I wish would keep his uninformed opinions to himself.
Sorry Donald, that wasn’t an endorsement. Just a bad attempt at a joke, I guess?— Anthony Mackie (@AnthonyMackie) October 19, 2015
I’m not shocked that Mackie said (or joked, as he later tweeted above) he would support a Trump campaign. I am, however, a bit taken aback that people are surprised that he would. Mackie’s political views, for all of his skill as an actor, are not as accurate as the characters he plays on the big screen. His racial politics certainly do not align with the political messaging of the Spike Lee films in which he appears: black nationalist, anti-respectability and anti-system.
Mackie, the person, expresses political views that are the antithesis of all three.
During a January interview with theGrio in which he was promoting the movie “Black and White,” he suggested that black men with dreadlocks attract abusive police to attack them:
“Like my nephew wanted to grow dreadlocks. I’m like fine, I’ll sit you down and I’ll watch ‘The First 48′ with you and everybody you see on that show, that’s doing something wrong, they’re black dudes with dreadlocks. So, do you want to be seen as part of the problem or do you want to be an individual?”
“Let’s just say you have locks and you walking down the street,” says Mackie. “The police pull you over and say you fit the description of somebody. You start yelling and arguing with the cops. Next thing you know you pressed up against the wall going to jail for something you’re not even involved in just because you look like somebody and you don’t know how to handle yourself.”
But that wasn’t the only troubling statement he made during the interview. He went on to suggest that “Selma” was being snubbed because black actors and actresses weren’t performing well enough. “If you look at all the movies and actors that are nominated, they all gave damn good performances,” Mackie said. “Me specifically, if that’s something I want, I have to step my game up. I have to do better movies and I have to act better.”
During the interview, Mackie didn’t blame a racist police state that allows brutal cops to beat black people at will and get away with it; he, instead, focused the responsibility on “black dudes with dreadlocks.” And Hollywood, in all of its entrenched decades of racism and anti-blackness, wasn’t the primary issue, either; black actors and actresses simply need to perform better and they won’t be snubbed, seemed to be his logic. Racism in Hollywood, Mackie said during the interview, wasn’t the issue.
Given this lack of racial analysis, should we really be disappointed with his “joke” about Trump? Even if Mackie claims his Trump commentary was a bad attempt at levity, the problem is that his past remarks on race makes it seems like he wasn’t joking at all and is retreating from how he really feels because of social media backlash.
What we have learned from Mackie’s racial views this year is that he is clueless about structural racism. Instead of challenging the laws and culture that support bad cops, Mackie believes that black people simply need to stop wearing hairstyles that invite their violence. In a year in which Black Lives Matters has single-handedly forced the nation to look at how the law can make police accountable for unjustified killings of black people, Mackie narrowed his attention on how victims can avoid predatory police abuse.
And, instead of supporting Ava Duvernay, a black female director who, during the Oscar season, everyone believed was being snubbed by white Hollywood because she didn’t center white people in the historical narrative of her film, he said black people needed to make better films.
That he would support Trump, even jokingly, is a culmination of his uninformed analysis on race that has seeped into politics. Mackie is free to think as he wishes, but I just wish he’d at least base his views on things that are actually true.
Trump’s dad was worth $300 million at the time of his death, so to “joke” that Trump came from nothing is a little absurd.
My first encounter with Mackie, the actor, occurred several years after the 2004 release of the Spike Lee Joint “She Hate Me.” The young actor played a sharp corporate executive who turned to impregnating women, for $10,000 per pop, ―pardon the pun― after his company falsely accused him of securities fraud and his assets were frozen.
It was a smart role for the rising star who delivered yet another strong performance in “Sucker Free City” that same year. As I followed Mackie’s trajectory over the years in “Million Dollar Baby,” “Half Nelson,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Night Catches Us” and many more films in which I grew to respect the range and depths of the characters he portrayed, I never, for a second, pondered the politics of the man he was in real life.
Now that I have, I’ll ignore his political and racial views and continue enjoying his performances. At least Mackie’s portrayals of the characters he plays on the silver screen are more accurate than the social views he espouses in real life.