Kerry Washington is speaking out about how her high-profile career doesn't preclude her and her family from experiencing racism.
In a sneak peek at the newest episode of the Jemele Hill is Unbothered podcast, airing Monday at 8 a.m. ET, Washington opens up about the fears she has as a mother (to son Caleb Kelechi, 4 next month, and daughter Isabelle Amarachi, 6, with husband Nnamdi Asomugha, as well as stepmother to Asomugha's teenage daughter) — and how her name recognition doesn't necessarily mean she always feels safe.
"It's crazy when somebody says like, 'How dare you, Kerry Washington, have a voice. You're a so-privileged Hollywood actor person,' " says the star, 43. "No matter what I do, no matter how many Emmy nominations, I am still scared at times to scooter in neighborhoods with my kids where I feel like somebody could call the cops."
"Because that cop may never have seen Scandal," she adds. "I still have that very real fear."
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Washington believes "nobody should be silenced because of their job," telling Jemele Hill that she has "a job that does allow me greater visibility" and, in that sense, "I have to be extra responsible in ensuring that what I say comes from my heart and is me speaking for me and not on behalf of any other organizations or ideologies, which I don't."
"When I speak about this country, I speak as a mother, I speak as a woman, I speak as a Black person," she continues. "I speak as a kid who grew up in the Bronx, across the street from the projects. I don't speak as a Hollywood elite. I speak as somebody who's the mother of Black children, as somebody who had student loans way longer than I thought I would. I speak as somebody who cares about my community and the community that my family lives in, my extended family."
The Little Fires Everywhere star insists she's "never going to be quiet because somebody else thinks I should." Explains Washington, "Whenever somebody says to an entertainer or an athlete or an actor, 'You shouldn't have a voice,' to me, that's a reminder to stay in my voice because I can't let people silence me."
"I feel like sometimes we get tired of hearing it, but I have to remind myself people fought so hard for me to have a voice," she adds. "Like as a woman — women went to jail in petticoats … for us, as women, to be able to vote."
When asked how she puts current racial issues in perspective for her children, Washington tells Hill that her approach is "different for each" child — and that "a big part" of her technique has to do with "self-care," so she can pour from a fuller cup for them.
"I know that might sound crazy and corny, but I really try to think about, what do I need to be doing right now to take care of myself so that I am present for them, to be able to answer the questions of, 'Who is this girl, Breonna Taylor, on my T-shirt?' " says the Django Unchained actress.
"And, 'Why do we want to arrest the cops?' To be having those conversations with young children, it requires a lot of presence and ability to navigate their journey with this information and to be there for them," Washington adds. " 'Cause there's so much uncertainty in the world."
"I don't think my job as a mom is to take away all the uncertainty, because dealing with uncertainty is part of the human experience, but can I navigate the uncertainty with them and try to mitigate what is age-appropriate?" she continues. "It's challenging. It's an ongoing conversation."
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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