John Boyega was racially profiled at airports every time he came to America

53rd Munich Security Conference (MCS)

John Boyega covers the latest issue of ES Magazine, the Evening Standard’s weekend supplemental. Boyega is obviously best known these days for Star Wars, but he’s also got other films coming out. In August, he’ll be doing a big promotional push for Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, which… have you seen the trailer? It looks INTENSE.

Boyega plays a black cop – one of the few – in Detroit in 1967, where there was a huge race riot spurred (mostly) by police abuse. The film looks incredibly tense. I do have a minor quibble about Boyega in this role though – like, I love him and I want him to succeed at everything. But I also wonder if his image/persona is too modern for a historical drama? Like, maybe I’ll be absorbed in the storytelling and Boyega’s performance will be flawless, but just in the trailer, I was taken aback slightly because he seemed too modern for a film set in 1967. Anyway, in this ES Magazine interview, he talks about racial profiling and more:

He was constantly stopped whenever he was flying into or out of America: “I used to fly back and forth when I was hustling and auditioning for things in LA. I’d get cheap flights and stay there for two weeks or whatever. And every time I was getting these random checks. Every. Single. Time. I wish I remembered the airline because I called them out on it, too. Like, ‘This stuff ain’t right’. They said it was a problem Stateside, they gave me a letter and it stopped. But before that it was consistent. I understand that [these things] are for our safety but when you fly a lot and it happens three or four times there’s an element of, ‘Okay, I’m still not a terrorist’.”

He loves visiting Nigeria, where his parents are from: “I love being in a country where I’m not the minority. It does something to me. I wish I could take my boys from America out there, especially at this time, to have that feeling.”

He regrets beefing with Samuel L. Jackson about African-American actors versus black British actors: “I just think there’s no end result in black Brits and African-Americans going back and forth at each other … I rate Sam and he’s always showed me love — he’s like a big unc — but across the planet, the black experience is a layered one and his comments didn’t represent that.”

He still lives in South London & he’s worried about gentrification: “I get the need [to develop] for the betterment of our society and our spaces. [But] is that at the cost of people that have lived there for years? Who’ve worked there? Who’ve struggled there? What happens to them?”

[From the ES Magazine]

I believe he was stopped constantly at airports. That’s still happening to people of color all the time, and it seems to be getting worse now under Emperor Bigly. I also like what he says about “across the planet, the black experience is a layered one.” I’ve already said this before, but yes, there does seem to be a historical myopia when it comes to how minority communities experience racism and bigotry outside of America.

Cover courtesy of the Evening Standard, additional pic by Getty.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

19 Responses to “John Boyega was racially profiled at airports every time he came to America”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. LAK says:

    Perhaps you need to watch HALF OF A YELLOW SUN. Set in 1960s Nigeria, set against backdrop of the Biafra war. He fit right in.

    Btw, speaking of AA actors playing non AA characters, Anika Noni Rose is in the movie. Playing a socialite Nigerian. Dodgy accent.

    • hunter says:

      the term “African American” doesn’t seem appropriate when applied to black British people.

      • LAK says:

        Anika Noni Rose is African American, no?

        She’s definitely not British unlike John Boyega, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandi Newton who were the other stars of the movie.

        Also, i’m black British so i’m perfectly aware of how we describe ourselves.

      • KB says:

        Yes, she’s African American, born in Connecticut

  2. teacakes says:

    I think the reason he gives you that ‘too modern’ impression is because he’s so young – I remember some review saying that exact same “too modern for a period film” thing about Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. And John, like 90s Leo, is so far best known for playing really young characters, from Attack the Block to Star Wars.

    I doubt he’ll seem that way once he’s got a few years on him, and I think he’ll be fine in Detroit.

  3. Chinoiserie says:

    I red somewhere he was playing a security guard but I might just misremember, I don’t really know much about the events of the film. But he seemed modern looking to me too in the trailer, but I am not sure why. The trailer looks great anyway.

  4. ellieohara says:

    Why would he be profiled at airports? There’s no reason for black men to be profiled at airports and (as a black women) I don’t really believe it. I’ve never seen it. Asians, Arabs, Persians, seen plenty.

    • MellyMel says:

      I have coworkers and family members, black males, who get profiled every time they are at the airport. Just because you don’t see it personally or know someone that it has happened to doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen or that John is lying. And to answer your first question of why…racism.

    • teacakes says:

      Racism, that’s why.

      Also plenty of black people have Muslim names – so they get the racism+Islamophobia double bill.

      • ellieohara says:

        There is no specific “airport racism”. It’s called racial profiling. As I said above, black men don’t fit any immigration concern outside of those with islamic names. This isn’t a real problem and I’m side-eyeing John Boyega for pretending it is.

      • teacakes says:

        @ellieohara – “This isn’t a real problem”

        except for the part where he said he’d experienced it?

        Please stop trying to be the expert on whether POC face racism or not, and what kind.

    • Susan says:

      Probably the visits to Nigeria triggered it.

      There is probably also a non-racial component on top of a racial one. If you are young, and look a little casual, immigration interrogates you because they suspect you might be coming as a potential illegal immigrant and overstay your visa. That happens frequently upon entering the U.K. in fact. Americans in their twenties carrying backpacks are routinely stopped for extra checking and questioning and you better ensure you have a round trip ticket to show them or they won’t let you in. My (white) boyfriend traveled all the time for work and if he was traveling in his normal weekend attire, he would get stopped all the time. Travel in a suit? Breeze through.

      • Elgin Marbles says:

        Travel in a suit? Sorry, but that’s a wack statement. The experience of a person of color is going to be radically different from that of your white boyfriend. Race and ethnicity are the dominant factors in airport checks.

      • Susan says:

        Elgin Marbles, I think you need to re-read my comment again. I think you missed…words.

    • Lipreng says:

      Islamic terrorism is a big problem in Nigeria.

  5. mermaid says:

    I remember watching Attack the Block, bought on whim from a bargain bin, and being absolutely blown away by his performance. Kept waiting for someone/ANYONE to grab this amazingly charismatic kid and put him in everything. So glad it finally happened. And what a thoughtful, intelligent and kind person he is.

    Of course he got harassed. So effing never -ending.

    • teacakes says:

      same here – that was an absolutely fantastic film, and I had my fingers crossed that he’d get a bigger breakout soon – imagine my joy when I heard he was going to be in Star Wars!

  6. Bread and Circuses says:

    I knew a black Canadian man, born and raised, who said the same thing about visiting southern Africa and being part of the visible majority for the first time. It was a powerful, beautiful, and emotional experience for him, and he felt like he’d found a second home despite being in a nation utterly different than what he’d grown up with.

  7. Dani says:

    He looks modern because of his hair they could be given him some side burns or something