NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two City Council members took issue Friday with a statement by actor Anthony Mackie about dreadlocks and profiling by police.
Councilmen Jumaane Williams (D-45th) and Robert E. Cornegy Jr. (D-36th) noted that they both wear their hair in dreadlocks themselves. They criticized Mackie for his remarks in an interview this week with TheGrio.com, in which he said he told his nephew who wanted to grow dreadlocks that “everyone you see” who appears on the police documentary show “The First 48” and is doing something wrong appears as an African-American man with dreadlocks.
“So, do you want to be seen as part of the problem or do you want to be an individual?” Mackie was quoted in the TheGrio.com article. “Let’s just say you have locks and you walking down the street. The police pull you over and say you fit the description of somebody. You start yelling and arguing with the cops. Next thing you know you pressed up against the wall going to jail for something you’re not even involved in just because you look like somebody and you don’t know how to handle yourself.”
In a joint statement, Williams and Cornegy said Mackie’s remarks “serve to reinforce negative stereotypes,” and suggested that he perhaps could have shown his nephew photos of the New York City Council rather than referencing the show “The First 48” when the subject of dreadlocks came up.
“You don’t want to bring up the next generation with the same negative imagery. You want to, at some point, begin to change that,” Williams told 1010 WINS. “So having positive role models that look like you is important. So why you would go to the negative doesn’t seem very responsible for the next generation.”
In the statement, Williams and Cornegy said their dreadlocks stand as a source of pride and cultural heritage, and nobody should be asked to conform to a “stereotypically ‘respectable’ image” out of fear that they may be profiled.
“(Mackie’s) response is part of the problem more than anyone’s hair,” Williams said. “His response is perpetuating negative stereotypes.”
Williams said Mackie should be using his platform of fame differently.
“The fact that he’s young, the fact that he’s an actor, the fact that he’s black, the fact that people look up to him – all of that multiplies. It was just amazing,” he said. “You have to have some responsibility to what you’re telling the next generation, and he showed, I think, enormous irresponsibility.”
Mackie responded to widespread criticism of his remarks in a subsequent video interview with EURWeb.com. He said he himself once had dreadlocks, and said he was trying to make a point about perception and the reality of profiling, not denigrating people with dreadlocks.
“The reality of it is this — I said my nephew came to me and said he wanted dreadlocks. We were talking about profiling. And I said, if you have a conversation about profiling and you don’t talk about the different aspects of profiling — if you don’t talk about perception — you are doing everyone in your family a great disservice,” Mackie said. “I don’t care who it is. If you have a young black man, a young black woman, a young white man, a young white woman, you sit them down and talk about perception.”
Mackie, a Juilliard School graduate, has won critical acclaim and award nominations for his roles in “The Hurt Locker,” “Night Catches Us,” and “The Adjustment Bureau,” among other films.