Morgan Freeman: Black History Month, African American Is an Insult

In a rare new interview while promoting his performance in Zach Braff’s “A Good Person,” Morgan Freeman told The Sunday Times that he’s insulted by Black History Month and the term “African American.”

“Two things I can say publicly that I do not like,” Freeman said. “Black History Month is an insult. You’re going to relegate my history to a month?”

“Also, ‘African American’ is an insult,” he added. “I don’t subscribe to that title. Black people have had different titles all the way back to the n-word and I do not know how these things get such a grip, but everyone uses ‘African American’. What does it really mean? Most Black people in this part of the world are mongrels. And you say Africa as if it’s a country when it’s a continent, like Europe.”

When The Sunday Times reporter evoked Denzel Washington, who once said, “I’m very proud to be Black, but Black is not all I am,” Freeman added: “Yes, exactly. I’m in total agreement. You can’t define me that way.”

Freeman’s quotes recall recent ones made by Idris Elba, who stirred up social media in February after revealing he does not refer to himself as “Black actor” because it puts limitations on his career.

“As humans, we are obsessed with race,” Elba told Esquire U.K. “And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth. Racism should be a topic for discussion, sure. Racism is very real. But from my perspective, it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be. I stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realized it put me in a box. We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: it’s just skin. Rant over.”

Elsewhere in his Sunday Times interview, Freeman admitted that he got so famous as an actor at a certain point in his career that he could no longer be the “chameleon” or “character actor” that he intended to be.

“When my career started in film I wanted to be a chameleon,” Freeman said. “I remember De Niro early on doing very different parts. Almost unrecognizable as the same actor. I had opportunities like that. But as you mature in this business, eventually you become a star. Then you’re pretty screwed in terms of referring to yourself as a character actor. You play a lot of the same type of role — people hire you and say, ‘It’s you that I want.’ And you live with it.”

“I don’t think I’ve done much in the last 10 years that was much different,” Freeman noted. “‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and ‘Glory’ were different. Now? It’s just…me. The character will adapt itself to you rather than the other way round, so I do what piques my interest. Sometimes it’s just the money alone.”

Freeman most often plays sage-like characters, which is exactly his role in Braff’s “A Good Person.” The film is now playing in theaters.

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