The condemnation of Mackie for his comments, made during an interview with The Grio, was widespread and severe across social media.
During the interview, when he was asked about racial profiling, Mackie talked about a conversation he had with his nephew.
“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,” he said. “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. 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,” Mackie said.
But after the vicious reaction on social media from users mocking Mackie, he felt the need to clarify his comments—while taking a swipe at the Grio.
He claimed that the Grio Entertainment Editor Chris Witherspoon “lied” and misled him into believing that the portion of that interview was not on record.
In an interview with EUR Web, he said his comments about dreadlocks was an example illustrating the perception police officers have of those wearing the hairstyle, not a slam on anyone with dreadlocks.
“I said ‘My nephew came to me and he said I’ma grow dreadlocks…So speaking as someone who had dreadlocks, I sat my nephew down. I turned on ‘First 48’ because it’s one of my favorite shows. So there are all these young black men being arrested, being killed. The majority of them have dreadlocks. It’s a phenomenon now. Young men want dreadlocks because it’s cool.
“So I told him ‘You will be perceived as this. If you wear your pants hanging off your behind, if you wear your shoes a certain way, if you got tattoos all up your neck. I’m not saying that’s what you are, but you will be perceived as this. And with perception comes profiling,” Mackie explained.
He compared the tense relationship between law enforcement and Black men to being in “shark-infested waters.”
But Grio executive editor David Wilson had to come back at Mackie and defend Witherspoon. The Grio also released the full, unedited video of Mackie making the controversial comments.
In an editorial on The Grio, Wilson said of the claim that Witherspoon lied, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Witherspoon has interviewed Mackie on multiple occasions and has known the actor for two years. Witherspoon and theGrio have no interest in harming Mackie’s reputation. When he sat down with Mackie, it was not under the pretense of friendship but as a reporter and subject…Witherspoon’s journalistic integrity is beyond reproach. He has sat down with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte, and Denzel Washington. He would not have access to such caliber of talent if he had a reputation for being duplicitous.
“We continue to be admirers of Anthony Mackie. However, we hope that he discontinues his attack on Chris Witherspoon’s character and offers an apology.”
Mackie had more to say about American race relations in his comments to EUR.
“No one’s listening….Everybody wanna hashtag, but nobody’s listening,” Mackie said.
“I don’t know how white people feel about what happened in New York or Ferguson because they haven’t been given an opportunity to speak. And that’s what’s so scary. I feel like we just all need to stop and listen,” Mackie added.
“You want to do a good protest? Set up four booths in Times Square with a sign over them that say ‘Talk to me’ and put two black people and two white people in each booth and talk. Talk.”