Samuel L. Jackson on #OscarsSoWhite and How "Muslim Americans Are the New Black Kids"
"People perceive them as a threat before even saying hello," the actor said during a talk at the Dubai International Film Festival. "But they are a vital part of our country."
Sitting onstage Thursday at the Madinat Jumeirah for the Dubai International Film Festival, Samuel L. Jackson dove into awards season talk.
“This time of year in Hollywood is an interesting time of year," Jackson said to a packed house of journalists and locals alike. "This year seems to be a bit different from the #OscarsSoWhite of last year. All of these films have people of color in them. They are impactful and moving films.”
The Pulp Fiction actor was at DIFF to receive a lifetime achievement award.
Although he relied on the audience to name the films, Jackson shouted out hints like “black female NASA scientists,” (Hidden Figures), “the interracial couple” (Loving) and The Birth of a Nation, “which was touted for a long time until it was tainted” (by a rape scandal involving the film’s director Nate Parker during his time at Pennsylvania State University).
"And then there’s Manchester by the Sea, which is a moving and great film,” he said, pausing and then adding, "But it is not an inclusive film, if you know what I mean. Moonlight is thought of the same way. 'It’s a black movie and we are white people.' I could say the same thing about Manchester by the Sea.”
Speaking about race and films, Jackson felt very comfortable transitioning into discussing how his upbringing has informed his decisions, cinematically and otherwise. “I am a product of the segregated South," he said. "I was a part of apartheid. There were things I couldn’t do. They inform who I am but not how I act.
“I understand something about my country that others don’t understand," he continued. "Like what just happened during that [presidential] election, I get it in another kind of way. I’m not confused or shocked by it. I get it, I lived in it during another time. I understand who those people are who want to make America great again.”
When later asked by an audience member about his thoughts on Donald Trump, Jackson said, “My agent won’t let me answer that question.” But he did answer a question about the diversification of Hollywood.
“The business has changed in an interesting sort of way,” the actor said. “There are so many platforms for people to tell their stories and so many stories get told. 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," he continued. "Like that HBO show, The Night Of, what an amazing piece of work. For average Americans, they would say, ‘That’s some black shit.’”
Added Jackson: “Muslims are getting arrested like black kids get arrested; Muslim Americas are the new black kids in America. Suspect as we are for the dominant culture, people don’t understand them. People perceive them as a threat before even saying hello. 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.’”
Jackson’s words of advice: “Pick up a Koran man, you might get a job,” which got deep laughs and a standing ovation.