Forest Whitaker, the Oscar-winning actor and advocate of sustainable development, is taking the long view of race relations in America… and he sees progress.
The 59-year-old actor believes that living standards and opportunities for African-Americans are slowly improving, but more work needs to be done to “correct” long-standing problems.
“There’s certain inequities going on in the world, and abuses, but you can’t deny, as African-Americans, that we are progressing,” he told London’s Independent newspaper.
“That doesn’t mean that we … we have to look along the line and decide where we are in the journey.
“[There was a time when black people] weren’t allowed to live in certain neighborhoods; they weren’t allowed to go to restaurants; they weren’t allowed to own homes … at one point, they were owned,” he noted.
Despite this, Whitaker acknowledged that true equality remains a long way off.
“We have to acknowledge those things and those movements, but that doesn’t change the fact that people are suffering through inequities of healthcare, economics, abuses, brutality, those things are still occurring,” he said.
“And so we have to continue to try to correct those problems.”
The Hollywood star’s film credits include “The Last King of Scotland,” for which he won an Academy Award, and “Black Panther.”
He cited former President Barack Obama’s election to two terms in the White House as proof of progress in U.S. race relations.
Whitaker’s views have been consistent over time. In 2013, he also had faith things were getting better.
“It’s clear that things are always getting better in one way or another,” he said.
“It’s going from living in chains once upon a time to producing the leader of the free world. That’s a happy ending – enjoy it!”
Whitaker also observed that racial inequality isn’t unique to the United States.
“In Sweden they’ll be rioting against immigrants, in France they’re stopping women wearing burqas. You’ve had riots in Brixton in the past.”
Whitaker was born in Longview, Texas to Laura Francis, a special education teacher and Forest E. Whitaker Jr., an insurance salesman.
When Whitaker was four, his family moved to Carson, Calif. He won a football scholarship to college but was injured and focused instead on a major in singing.
His first role as an actor was the lead in the Dylan Thomas play Under Milk Wood.
He actually played a football player in the 1982 film version of Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age teen-retrospective “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
His career has been marked by seminal roles in films that involved intense character studies.
In 1986, he appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “The Color of Money” and Oliver Stone’s “Platoon.”
branched out into producing and directing in the 1990s.
Whitaker became a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation in a ceremony at UNESCO headquarters in 2011.
As Goodwill Ambassador, he works with UNESCO to support and develop initiatives that empower youths and keep them from entering or remaining in cycles of violence.
His latest film “The Godfather of Harlem” was inspired by the #MeToo movement.