“I love that all of our excuses have been removed. African-American excuses have been removed. There’s no white man trying to keep you down, because if he were really trying to keep you down, he would have done everything he could to keep Obama down. Yes, there are racist people who live here, absolutely. But they’re not the majority anymore.” – Will Smith on the election of Barack Obama for President
The first time I saw Will Smith act was in one of his episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I was not a Fresh Prince fan. I was turned off by his stereotypical young black man focused on women and having a good time. The character of Will Smith played by the actor Will Smith was too shallow for my taste. But my brother was watching the show and I decided to do some brotherly bonding and sat down to watch it with him. I came in on the middle of the show. Bear with me as I try to recall the details.
Will had hidden in the back seat of a high end German automobile driven by his cousin Carlton Banks who Will often calls an Oreo. They were driving through some posh neighborhood when they were pulled over by the police. Will got out of the car and spread himself out on the hood, ready to be handcuffed and taken to jail. His cousin Carlton was confused and didn’t understand the process. It was late at night. He was driving his father’s car and had a license so he didn’t know why he was being pulled over. The two were taken into custody until their story could be checked out. But they were thrown into a holding cell without an opportunity to call Carlton’s parents Judge Phillip Banks and wife. Guards ignored the two as they passed by. The wheels of justice had seized up and they were getting no where. Will got the idea that if they confessed to some high profile crime they would get air time on the news and somebody would recognize them and tell Uncle Phil so he could come get them out of jail. Sure enough the plan worked and they were quickly freed and they returned home.
The final scene had Carlton and Will talking. Carlton was talking about how well the justice system worked while Will was trying to wake his brainwashed cousin up. The only reason they were pulled over and taken into custody was that they were two young black men driving a high dollar piece of machinery after dark and they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only reason they were released so quickly was because Carlton’s father was a well known judge. The message was clear. Not every black person has access to a high profile judge. But certainly plenty of black people have the opportunity to be pulled over and taken into custody because some cop feels that black people don’t deserve nice things. The only reason the system worked was because they had an ace card to play. The episode ended with Carlton expressing doubts about the system he had so much faith in just a minute before.
Right then and there I thought I may have misjudged the program. After watching a few other episodes I was quickly reminded why I didn’t particularly care for the show. I simply couldn’t get past the constant jigging that the Will Smith character was so happy to do. But still, certainly there were worse shows to watch. The Cosby show featuring the Huxtables never once featured an episode where they had to face any issues common to black people. At least the Fresh Prince was willing to go there. I got the impression that maybe Will Smith understands.
That was years ago. Maybe close to a couple of decades. But nevertheless, I was surprised to hear Will Smith say that now that Mr. Obama is in the White House, black people don’t have an excuse as to why we don’t make it. Going back to the Fresh Prince episode about Carlton Banks and his father Judge Phil Banks, Carlton should have had it made. If the police had run the tags they would have seen that the car belonged to Judge Banks and that young Carlton’s last name was Banks and they would’ve easily put two and two together to realize that they’d better let him go about his way. But instead, all the police knew was that they had taken a couple of potential problems off the street. Judge Banks couldn’t protect his son Carlton from being racially profiled and discriminated against. And the two sleep in the same house.
How does Mr. Smith figure that Mr. Obama being in the White House protects black people from discrimination in the future? All I can think is that Mr. Smith spent a little too much time with one of those pens that flashes the red light and selectively erases people’s memories in Men In Black. Or maybe Mr. Smith spent too much time looking at his statement from his accountant that showed how much he was worth with all the trailing zeroes and forgot how much racial discrimination is a part of the American way of life.
What can you expect from a black man who proudly promotes the fact that his black daughter Willow looks to someone of such questionable character as Paris Hilton as a role model? From Mr. Smith’s high profile perspective, there’s nothing wrong with the system. He got his and that’s all that matters. Unfortunately, everyday that passes Will Smith becomes more like a caricature of Carlton Banks and less like the fresh prince from Philly.