For years Alfonso Ribeiro was one half of the dynamic cousin duo alongside Will Smith on the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Ribeiro, who is known for his signature Carlton dance move, and Smith, who played Will, constantly found themselves in situations offering life lessons ranging from classism to racism.
“The storylines always seemed to work because they came from real places. They came from real experiences that we all had to deal with, right?” Ribeiro said during a May 13 appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”
And quite literally proof of difficult topics being addressed include Ribeiro’s and Smith’s characters experiencing racial profiling during a traffic stop.
In the scene, Carlton and Will find themselves lost while driving to Palm Springs at night. When they least expect it they are pulled over by a cop. Carlton naively thinks things will be fine and that he and Will can get directions. Will, being from West Philadelphia, knew the situation could turn out to be a less than ideal experience and attempted to give his cousin guidance on how to navigate the traffic stop.
“Listen to me, Carlton, when he comes up keep your hands on the wheel,” advised Will. Ignoring the advice, Carlton immediately reaches out the window to greet the officer with a handshake. The officer responds by telling him to keep his hands on the wheel.
“The idea that Carlton was just like, ‘He pulled us over because we were speeding. It’s not because we were Black. He treated us this way because he understood right and wrong.’ That’s all he knew,” said the “America’s Funniest Home Videos” host. “And so you could touch on these subjects without really being preachy and really say, ‘This is how it is.’”
At one point while handing the officer his license and registration, Carlton mentions the car he’s driving is not his. Will then says the officer’s next order would be to get out the car. To which Carlton responds, “You watch too much TV, Will.” They ultimately end up in a local jail accused of being car thieves, needing the rescue of Uncle Phil and his wife Vivian.
“In every aspect of life there are mirrors, and we are a mirror to every aspect of society, so what was wonderful was being able to say and to show those stories and to have those real conversations. And a lot of those conversations happened on set as we were getting ready to film it.”
The message could not be any more timely considering the U.S. reckoning with police brutality and the disproportionate arrests and deaths that involve Black people. Racism, as many argue, can be described as a major part of the country’s foundation. Even after the fight for civil rights, millions of protesters are still fighting for Black lives to matter.
The deaths of people such as George Floyd and Eric Garner while in police custody continue to trigger conversations about racism and police brutality going hand in hand.
“And I’ve heard Will say this many times. It’s like, you know, police brutality didn’t just start. It’s just being filmed,” added Ribeiro.