Matthew McConaughey talks about 'white allergies' during candid conversation with Emmanuel Acho about racism

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Matthew McConaughey appeared on Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man for a candid discussion about race.

In the second episode of the series, which the former football star turned analyst debuted in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Oscar winner, 50, said his end goal is to try to help “take the time we’re in now and constructively turn a page in history through some righteous and justifiable change.” He kicked off the dialogue with his fellow Texan by asking how he could do better as a human, man and white man.

“You have to acknowledge that there is a problem so that you can take more ownership for the problem,” replied Acho, 29. “The first step to acknowledging it is sitting in this chair right here across from a black man and being like: OK — I may not be talking about you, Emmanuel Acho, but I may be talking about people who look like you. Individually, you have to acknowledge implicit bias. You have to acknowledge that you’ll see a black man and for whatever reason, you will view them more of a threat than you will a white man. Probably because society told you to.”

Acho — who played football at the University of Texas at Austin, McConaughey’s alma mater — talked about how a person with a white-sounding name is more likely to be hired for a job over a candidate with a black sounding name — even when they have the same qualifications. “You’re a very successful man who probably has several people under you,” Acho said. “Are you a part of that statistical problem?”

Matthew McConaughey appeared on Emmanuel Acho's Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man. (Photo: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man/YouTube)

The True Detective star went on to ask about Black Lives Matter. Acho drew a comparison to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that while there are many other illnesses, right now eradicating COVID-19 is at the forefront of people’s minds.

“Right now, we’re focused on finding a remedy for that illness,” Acho said. “That’s not to say that cancer doesn’t matter. It’s not to say that HIV doesn’t matter. It’s not to say that ALS doesn’t matter. All those things still matter. But right now, the coronavirus is killing people. In the same token ... once we get these black lives that are being ended unjustly handled by the grace of God ... through conversations like these ... then we can be at a point to focus on everything else.”

McConaughey also brought up equality — unilateral and diverse — but Acho said he feels there is no such thing as equality in America because “the wake of slavery is still hitting African Americans. When you get on a boat ... there is a wake that follows the boat. And while you may not still be driving the boat there are African Americans getting smacked by the wake of slavery,” citing systemic injustice, poor school systems, voter suppression. “So that’s why things aren’t equal only because there is still a wake from slavery. Don’t feel guilty. Just acknowledge.”

McConaughey said he recently heard the term “white allergies,” explaining that white people may have prejudices they may not even realize due to where and how they were raised. McConaughey talked about his own upbringing — attending a racially diverse high school, having black friends, being the first white employee at a venue, marrying a non-white immigrant (Camila Alves McConaughey) — and wondered what his own could be that he’s unaware of.

“I’m diving deeper into how I’m looking at things and how I'm looking at myself,” McConaughey said. “How I can learn more, see things from your side more, see things from the black side more so I can get a four-dimensional view here because, inherently, maybe I had, to some extent I‘ve been living in a way where I didn’t see all sides as clear as I could have.”

The 12-minute chat ended with McConaughey asking what he can do — and what Acho could do. The football star said it includes conversation and action.

“People should take responsibility proactively to say, 'You know what? Maybe I'm a part of the problem,’” Acho said. “‘Maybe I can fix this issue. Not just by being not racist, but by being anti-racist. Maybe I can level the playing field and make it a fair fight.’”

On Wednesday, it was also announced that Acho will replace Jason Whitlock on FS1 series Speak for Yourself, a sports debate show.

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