Denzel Washington stressed the importance of having a positive father figure in the home while speaking recently about the mass incarceration of black males.
The Oscar-winning actor told a reporter for The Grio during a special advanced screening in New York of his film “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” that positive change in the black community “starts in the home.”
“If the father is not in the home, the boy will find a father in the streets,” he said. “I saw it in my generation and every generation before me, and every one since.”
“If the streets raise you, then the judge becomes your mother and prison becomes your home,” he added.
According to The New York Daily News, Mr. Washington expanded on his answer when pressed by reporters, saying, “It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure.
“So, you know, I can’t blame the system,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.”
Mr. Washington, who played civil rights activist Malcolm X in the Oscar-nominated 1992 film “Malcolm X,” said it was the young people he met during filming for that movie that inspired him to stay optimistic about change.
“I remember when I was doing the movie Malcolm X and we were doing a speech up at Columbia, we had a bunch of students from Columbia University,” he told The Grio.
“In between takes, we were talking about things and how tough the world is and I was like ‘With everything we’re talking about, does it make you want to give up?'” he said.
“And they’re like, ‘Oh, no no, we’re gonna change it,'” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m the cynic.’
“So I pray that young people never lose that fire, I don’t think they will,” he added. “And needless to say there’s a lot for them to work on.”
In Dan Gilroy’s “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” Mr. Washington, 62, plays an idealistic criminal defense attorney and legal savant who goes to work for a big Los Angeles law firm after his small-firm partner, a civil rights icon, dies of a heart attack.
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