Idris Elba: I’ve Experienced Racism as Long as I Have Been Breathing

British actor, director and executive producer Idris Elba speaks during a press conference to present the film "Yardie" shown in the "Panorama Special" category during the 68th edition of the Berlinale film festival in Berlin on February 22, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Stefanie Loos (Photo credit should read STEFANIE …
STEFANIE LOOS/AFP via Getty Images

Actor Idris Elba insists he has been the victim of racism since the moment he was born, comparing questions about his experience with racism to asking him how long he has been breathing.

“Success has not negated racism for me. Asking me about racism is like asking me about how long I have been breathing,” Elba said during a live-stream discussion entitled, “The Reckoning: The Arts And Black Lives Matter.”

The 47-year-old Luther and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw star also credited his parents for putting him on the road to success by teaching him that if he wanted to make it in life “you have to be twice as good as the white man.”

“I was an only child by immigrant parents from Sierra Leone, West Africa. And they worked hard for what they had,” The Wire star said. “This way of life taught me the importance of independence and relying on myself for my own success.”

The British born actor, who has long been touted as a possible replacement for Daniel Craig in the James Bond franchise, has previously argued that actors don’t have to be exactly the same as characters, with the obvious exception of race.

“Artistic license is artistic license. If an actor has the attributes to do something, they should be able to do it. They’re acting,” he said in 2018. “You don’t necessarily have to be gay to play a gay character. Though you do have to be black to play a black character.”

Elba was recently the subject of considerable media attention after being one of the first celebrities to contract the Chinese coronavirus. He made a full recovery, but has since suggested that the world take a week’s quarantine every year to commemorate the year the pandemic began.

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