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LaKeith Stanfield Unpacks Clubhouse Anti-Semitism Controversy, Denouncing Hate Speech

·4 min read

LaKeith Stanfield has stepped forward to denounce hate speech, after getting caught up in controversy involving anti-Semitic comments on Clubhouse.

The Clubhouse chat reportedly centered on the legacy of Louis Farrakhan, the American religious leader who is known for his anti-Semitic views. While Stanfield did not engage in hate speech himself, he was widely criticized for his presence at the virtual event, where he at one point was designated as a moderator.

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In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, the Oscar-nominated actor explained that he was only at the Clubhouse chat to educate himself on Farrakhan and his views. “I definitely don’t align myself with Louis Farrakhan, I don’t stand by him,” he said. “Any kind of hate speech, I vehemently reject. That’s not up for debate, hate is not up for debate.”

The 29-year-old took the opportunity multiple times to make his stance on hate speech clear. “I condemn hate speech and discriminatory views of any kind,” he said.

In his tell-all interview, Stanfield also provided additional context on the scandal, explaining how he ended up as a moderator of the conversation.

Stanfield said he decided to get involved with the chat, presented by Clubhouse member Sam Bito, as a means of educating himself on a controversial figure he knew little about. “It wasn’t about Louis Farrakhan per se,” he said. “Me going into the room, it was more about trying to uncover more information about these things that he said or didn’t say, because I wasn’t quite clear on it.”

At some point, the actor claims he raised a virtual hand to ask a question, and was made a moderator of conversation in the room.

“It was so chaotic in the room, there were a couple of [incendiary] outbursts,” he explained. “But for the most part, one outburst would happen and then the conversation would kind of go back into a normal rhythm.”

While Stanfield said much of the anti-Semitic speech cropped up after he’d set his phone down for the night, he was taken to task at one point by a Jewish woman present in the room, who criticized him for allowing hate speech to unfold. “I was really caught off guard, because first of all, I didn’t host the room,” he said. “But I also didn’t feel that the conversation was really headed in a direction that was completely attacking Jewish people. At that point, I thought there were still people saying their points and then other people saying their points. So, I explained to her that I know that this is a very tense and emotional conversation to have, and I just want everyone to have the time to be able to engage in conversation. So, that was part of me trying to moderate this conversation that was happening.”

Initially, it seemed like the 29-year-old actor reacted defensively, when the Clubhouse controversy erupted. “Thinking outside the box comes with a cost,” he posted on Instagram at one point. (Stanfield has since deleted all but a couple of posts on Instagram. He has also maintained that this post was quoting a song, though this claim hasn’t yet been validated.)

In retrospect, though, he sees that he should have responded differently to comments made in the room—either shutting the discussion down, when he had the ability to as moderator, or removing himself from the conversation entirely. He has also conceded that Clubhouse is not the best place to go, for an educational conversation of the sort he claimed to seek. “Clubhouse is not a place that you want to go. It doesn’t qualify for a place that can teach people accurately about things,” he said. “At its best, it’s a place that allows for conversation and allows people to come to understand viewpoints that they may or may not have been aware of. At its worst, it develops into rooms that facilitate things like what happened in this incident.”

Going forward, the actor said he will post on social media with more caution, and act with more awareness of the responsibility that comes with his platform. “I’m being careful as I move forward, to make sure I’m expressing the things that I really feel, and that I can’t even be put in a situation where it can be misconstrued or be situated next to things that don’t reflect how I actually feel,” he said. “There’s a big responsibility now for me, and I realized there are all kinds of different people looking at the things that I do, and I hold that of high importance.”

No stranger to controversy over the years, Stanfield earned his first Oscar nomination this year, for his turn as FBI informant William O’Neal in Judas and the Black Messiah. He’ll next be seen in Netflix anime series Yasuke and the third season of FX’s Atlanta, among other projects.

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