Denzel Washington is on the cover of October’s GQ magazine as part of a press junket for his 42nd (!!) movie. Great interview. But I want to focus on two quotes.
The first deals with Whitney Houston:
What did you feel when Whitney died?
Whitney was my girl, and she had done so well in recovery. And that is the toughest part about addiction.< Were you friends still?
Not “talk every month” friends, but I talked to her from time to time. And that was a monster drug that got ahold of her, it was a mean one. You can’t go back to that one. Nobody beats that. I look at people—and I don’t think I’m speaking out of line—Sam Jackson, I’ve known for thirty-some-odd years, he was down at the bottom. And he came all the way back. And when he cleaned up, he never looked back. But he can’t have that beer, because it might lead to the tough thing.
Whitney was such a sweet, sweet girl and really just a humble girl. You know, they made her this thing. She had a voice, obviously, but they packaged her into this whole whatever, but she was really just this humble, sweet girl. Me and Lenny [Kravitz], we were talking about her yesterday, and it’s more of an example to me or the rest of us to keep it together. I was listening to her song “I Look to You.” It’s prophetic. Maybe I’m speaking out of line. Maybe she thought she could have one. And then the next thing you know, her body was betraying her. She didn’t know that her body was aging quickly. She couldn’t take it. Your body can only take so much. Some people survive [Hollywood and fame], and some people don’t.
The second deals with African Americans.
If you had one thing to say to African-American readers of GQ, what would you say?
Take responsibility. One of the things that saddens me the most about my people is fathers that don’t take care of their sons and daughters. And you can’t blame that on The Man or getting frisked. Take responsibility. Look in the mirror and say, “What can I do better?” There is opportunity; you can make it. Whatever it is that you choose, be the best at it. You have an African-American president. You can do it. But take responsibility. Put your slippers way under your bed so when you get up in the morning, you have to get on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, start your day with prayer. Ask for wisdom. Ask for understanding. I’m not telling you what religion to be, but work on your spirit. You know, mind, body, and spirit. Imagine—work the brain muscle. Keep the body in tune—it’s your temple. All things in moderation. Continue to search. That’s the best part of life for me—continue to try to be the best man.
I would be very surprised given Washington’s status (again, 42 movies 1.965 billion dollars), if he routinely encountered the type of black men he speaks about above. When he talks about “my people” he’s talking about an abstraction rather than a real tangible thing. On the other hand note the tender tone he uses to talk about Whitney someone he’s known, and in a way, grown up with. Denzel’s an old school conservative, and in the interview you can see where he gets it from. I wish practitioners of this old school (negro) conservatism were a bit more consistent. Of course I wish they had better politics. But I think that’s asking for a bit much.
Just like it’d be a bit much to ask GQ to either stop asking Denzel about “African Americans” or start asking DeNiro about Italian Americans.