Idris Elba is right to want to not be burdened by racism, but…

Michael Arceneaux
4 min readFeb 14, 2023

The “I’m not Black, I’m OJ” approach is not wise for any Black man in life, much less Hollywood.


Stringer Bell is telling a familiar tale in his Esquire UK cover story.

In the now viral interview, Elba shared that he no longer refers to himself as a “Black actor” because the label placed him in a “box” and argued an “obsession” with race can hinder aspirations and growth.

“If we spent half the time not talking about the differences but the similarities between us, the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other,” Elba said.

He went on to say:

“As humans, we are obsessed with race. 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.

Of course, I’m a member of the Black community. You say a prominent one. But when I go to America, I’m a prominent member of the British community. “Oh, UK’s in the house!”

I accept that it is part of my journey to be aware that, in many cases, I might be the first to look like me to do a certain thing. And that’s good, to leave as part of my legacy. So that other people, Black kids, but also white kids growing up in the circumstances I grew up in, are able to see there was a kid who came from Canning Town who ended up doing what I do. It can be done.”

In sum, the man takes the I’m not Black, I’m OJ approach to life.


In fairness to Idris, everyone has the right to look at race relations from the after school special perspective if they so desire.

However, there’s a write up of this interview going around that makes his comments sound more worse than they actually are.

I still disagree with what he has to say in its fuller context, though.



Michael Arceneaux

New York Times bestselling author of “I Can’t Date Jesus” and “I Don’t Want To Die Poor.”