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Mahershala Ali Discusses Being Racially Profiled and His ‘Convoluted Relationship With Patriotism’

2 minute read

Oscar winner Mahershala Ali isn’t afraid to speak his mind candidly; in the past, he’s openly discussed his Muslim faith and took a stand when it came to immigration policies. Now, the Moonlight star is opening up about the challenges he faced as a black man in America.

In a recent interview, Ali revealed that his recent celebrity is an interesting contrast to the experience he’s had as a black man in America — an experience that he told GQ includes being racially profiled and being placed on the terror watch list for having a Muslim name.

“When suddenly you go from being followed in Barneys to being fawned over, it will mess with your head,” he said. “Those experiences that you have from age 10, when you start getting these little messages that you are something to be feared…walking down the street in Berkeley and some cops roll up on you and say straight up, ‘Give me your ID,’ and you’re like, ‘What the f—k?’”

Despite these interactions, Ali maintains a decidedly hopeful attitude about being an American, noting that he wants the country to live up to its claim of being “great” especially when it comes to racial politics.

“I think African-Americans have a very convoluted relationship with patriotism,” he said. “The fact is, we essentially were the abused child. We still love the parent, but you can’t overlook the fact that we have a very convoluted relationship with the parent. I absolutely love this country, but like so many people have some real questions and concerns about how things have gone down over the years and where we’re at. And that’s from a place of love, because I want the country to be what it says it is on paper.”


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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com