Black Brit Daniel Kaluuya plays the lead character in Jordan Peele’s sensational directorial debut Get Out. Judging from the critical acclaim, it turns out Kaluuya is pretty good at being black. Recently, a debate over Kaluuya’s casting was sparked by comments made by Samuel L. Jackson in a Hot 97 interview, where he claimed that Kaluuya couldn’t perfectly relate to the Black American experience because he’s British.
In a new interview with GQ, Kaluuya addressed Jackson’s comments. After giving his respects to Jackson (“He has done a lot so that we can do what we can do”), he used his personal experience to junk the argument:
Here’s the thing about that critique, though. I’m dark-skinned, bro. When I’m around black people I’m made to feel “other” because I’m dark-skinned. I’ve had to wrestle with that, with people going “You’re too black.” Then I come to America and they say, “You’re not black enough.” I go to Uganda, I can’t speak the language. In India, I’m black. In the black community, I’m dark-skinned. In America, I’m British. Bro!
[Black people in the UK], the people who are the reason I’m even about to have a career, had to live in a time where they went looking for housing and signs would say, “NO IRISH. NO DOGS. NO BLACKS.” That’s reality. Police would round up all these black people, get them in the back of a van, and wrap them in blankets so their bruises wouldn’t show when they beat them. That’s the history that London has gone through. The Brixton riots, the Tottenham riots, the 2011 riots, because black people were being killed by police. That’s what’s happening in London. But it’s not in the mainstream media. Those stories aren’t out there like that. So people get an idea of what they might think the experience is.
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This is the frustrating thing, bro—in order to prove that I can play this role, I have to open up about the trauma that I’ve experienced as a black person. I have to show off my struggle so that people accept that I’m black. No matter that every single room I go to I’m usually the darkest person there. You know what I’m saying? I kind of resent that mentality. I’m just an individual. You probably feel that as a writer, too. Just because you’re black, you taken and used to represent something. It mirrors what happens in the film.
Kaluuya concluded: “I resent that I have to prove that I’m black. I don’t know what that is. I’m still processing it.” He’s not wrong; colonialism’s anti-blackness isn’t just an American construct, after all. Read the entire interview here and our review of Get Out here.