Striking a massive and honorable defense of individuality against the predatory march of “Group Identity Victimism,” one of Britain’s most popular actors recently told an interviewer that he eschews race labels, and instead focuses on what and who he is: an individual.
Television and film fans worldwide know Idris Elba from roles in projects as wide-ranging as “The Wire,” Marvel superhero films, last year’s epic thriller “Beast,” his most iconic British role as detective, DCI John Luther (a series of “Luther” television films which he helps produce with novelist Neil Cross, who created the character), and fans even might have sampled his work as a live music-mixer-disc-jockey.
And those fans might not have thought about anything but his work as an individual among his coworkers…which appears to be exactly the way he would prefer it to be seen.
In a recent “Esquire” interview and partial promotion for his upcoming theatrical release of the first silver-screen-destined “Luther” motion-picture, “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” Elba offered a clear exposition of his dislike for race-baiting politics and Group Identity Victimism. Specifically, Elba observed that many people are obsessed with race, and he added that this unhealthy focus “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.”
This concept – and its attendant approach to life and interpersonal relations – likely could frighten numerous people who, rather than focusing on merit and individualism, focus on group identity and the amorphous political term “systemic racism” as their means of lifting their stations. But Elba appears to understand with absolute clarity that the players of victim cards harm themselves even as they often over-blow the narrative, as they push the false idea that a dominant “supremacist” group has it out for X, Y, or Z minority “group.”
In fact, this self-reliant, individualist ethos seems to be an approach he has embraced for a long time.
“I didn’t become an actor because I didn’t see black people doing it and I wanted to change that. I did it because I thought that’s a great profession and I could do a good job at it.”
And Elba does not demand that he be brought onto a project for the sake of “representation” or “fairness”, because that not only cannot be defined, it also harms the very concepts of merit and individual freedom.
“As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first black to do this or that. Well, it’s the same as it would be if I were white; it’s the first time for me. I don’t want to be the first ‘black.’ I’m the first Idris.”
Which is something to note as people speculate about whether or not he might ever accept an offer to play Ian Fleming’s spy James Bond.
For those people who aren’t baited by racialism and Group Identity Victimism, the possibly of Elba playing the tough and sometimes ruthless agent is not exciting because of the tone of his skin. It’s because he is a very good actor and would be exciting to watch in the role.
In fact, his iconic status as “Luther” has seen him pass on public entreaties that he play Bond. Mr. Elba enjoys the dynamism of the character he has helped create, and his decision has allowed him to remain much more independent than if he had accepted the Bond role.
Independence and self-worth appear to be key ingredients to Elba’s life.
As it was years ago, when actor Morgan Freeman told interviewer Don Lemon that, even though racism can play a part in one’s experiences (just like so many other petty dislikes and prejudices can be directed at us) it is not driving so-called “income inequality,” saying, “What does race have to do with it? Put your mind to what you want to do and go for that,” perhaps Elba has offered more people a chance to see that there is point where focusing on race is detrimental to both society and the individual.
He shows others the importance of knowing he is self-driven.
An admirable approach that, should they adopt it, could help a lot of people improve their lives.