“Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson was a teenager in Compton, Calif. during a historically violent and frightening time for the city made famous by N.W.A. The racial tension between police and African-American citizens contributed to the Rodney King beating, the Los Angeles riots, and even the O.J. Simpson verdict. This past season, Anderson’s character, Dre, ended an episode about police brutality with a dramatic monologue that he drew on his own experiences to deliver.
We asked Anderson, 45, what it was like to grow up when he did, where he did. Here’s his response:
Growing up in Compton in the mid- to late-80s, I was a victim of police brutality.
You’ll never understand what it was like to be in the middle of that. You can hear the story, but to live it and to experience it, words can’t even begin to explain.
I grew up in the middle, and at the height of, gang violence, the crack epidemic, drive-by shootings… turf wars between the Bloods and the Crips, the Rodney King verdict, my neighborhood burned…
I can tell you about it; you’ll never truly experience it, like, “Oh, I know what that’s like.” No, you don’t know what that’s like to literally live in an inferno, with really no help coming to aid because of what was going on in the streets. Things literally had to burn themselves out.
It was frightening. It’s interesting to say that it was liberating. It was unjust. Because we look at the aftermath and we look at how we destroyed our own community. You know, mom-and-pop shops that we had been going to for years were no longer there, and they couldn’t rebuild.
So what was it all for? What point was really made by doing that in our own community?
It was sad at the end of the day: the loss of life, the loss of property, the loss of income. Yeah, that’s what it was like.
“Black-ish” returns to ABC for its third season this fall.