At a recent discussion at the Dubai International Film Festival, Samuel L. Jackson made some surprising remarks about race relations in America. The actor, who attended the event to earn a lifetime achievement award, put Muslims in the same boat of oppression as Blacks.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the subject was broached after an audience member asked Jackson about his thoughts on Donald Trump winning the presidential election. While the “Legend of Tarzan” star said his agent advised him against answering the question, Jackson said he was not surprised by the election’s outcome.
“I get it, I lived in it during another time,” the 67-year-old said. “I understand who those people are who want to make America great again.”
Jackson reflected on the perceptions of race shared by the white Americans who overwhelmingly elected Trump as commander in chief. “Muslims are getting arrested like Black kids get arrested,” the star said, comparing the oppression of the two races. “Muslim Americans are the new Black kids in America.”
Jackson said that, although the dominant white culture views Black people as suspects, Muslims aren’t understood, either.
“People perceive them as a threat before they even saying hello,” Jackson said. “But the Muslim community is present in our country. They are a vital part of our country and interestingly enough, they have less crime, more education and their businesses thrive more so than any other group in the country. You tell people in the Rust Belt that, and they’re like, ‘Get out of here.’ ”
“Pick up a Koran man, you might get a job,” he added.
Jackson also spoke about the changing opportunities for Black actors in Hollywood.
“There are so many platforms for people to tell their stories and so many stories get told,” he said. “It used to be that there was a specific feeling that a certain amount of Black actors in Hollywood got. When Denzel [Washington] didn’t want to do it, it was me or Forest [Whitaker] and it came down to which one of us was cheaper. Now, they changed the business model so everyone is cheaper, and there’s a lot more work and a lot more people working.”
As a result, 2016 produced several Black-led Oscar-worthy films, something Jackson acknowledged.
“This year seems to be a bit different from the #OscarsSoWhite of last year,” he said. “All of these films have people of color in them. They are impactful and moving films.” With help from the audience, Jackson listed “Hidden Figures,” “Loving” and “The Birth of a Nation,” as contenders. But he noted “Nation” was “touted for a long time until it was tainted,” referring to filmmaker Nate Parker’s rape allegations.