Equity and Opportunity

Rock icon Lenny Kravitz 'amazed' that racism is still a pressing issue today

Key Points
  • Lenny Kravitz said he was "very, very proud" of the young people around the world standing up and protesting peacefully.
  • The influential music star said he was disappointed by some of today's global leaders.
Rock icon Lenny Kravitz on racism: I'm 'sad' and 'amazed'

Rock icon Lenny Kravitz told CNBC he is "sad" and "amazed" that racism and inequality remain pressing global issues 30 years after the release of his debut album, "Let Love Rule." 

Speaking about the publication of his new memoir of the same name, the Grammy-winning artist and activist whose parents were interracial, said he had watched both them and his grandparents "struggle and fight" for equality and "if they were here today they would not understand where we are, they wouldn't understand it."

"What I find sad is that if you would have asked me 30 years ago if I thought the world would be in a better place than it was when I first wrote my first album ... in speaking about a lot of these issues, I would have told you, 'yes ... it's a slow climb, but we are going there'," he said.

"It just amazes me where we are today. That we slipped into this place," he added.

With the U.S. election imminent, asked what he thinks can be done and how the current U.S. administration has handled the issues, the musician and songwriter who has sold over 50 million records worldwide, told CNBC it is a global problem.

"I don't want to make it an American thing, because this is a global issue between human beings. What can we do? Those of us that know what is right and true need to continue to represent what that is," he said.

Kravitz said he was "very, very proud" of the young people around the world standing up and protesting peacefully.

"I love seeing that because the youth know. These are old ways that are being passed down and taught to the new generation of people," he said.

Peter Kramer/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

The influential music star said he was disappointed by some of today's global leaders.

"Oh yes, of course ... there are people that do better than others and there are people that are more positive than others, but at the end of the day it's still politics and things don't happen as quickly as they should," he said. 

"Our main concerns right now need to be our planet and ... how we are treating ourselves and each other, and we don't have time to wait to get through all of this tape. We need to have action now, and if we don't, Mother Nature will deal with us," he added.

In his recently-released New York Times bestselling book, the multi-talented artist writes about the first 25 years of his life, up to the release of his debut album.

Kravitz's mother was U.S. actress Roxie Roker, who was half of the first interracial couple ever seen on U.S primetime television in the sitcom series, "The Jeffersons." His father was Sy Kravitz, a former U.S. Army Green Beret and NBC News journalist-producer.

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Kravitz told CNBC that his cross-culture upbringing had meant his early years were spent unaware of any division and differences.

"It was beautiful to grow up that way and not understand that, not having an idea about racism," he said.

But speaking from his home in The Bahamas where he has been since March throughout the global response to the Covid-19 crisis, the celebrated star said he became aware of the reality of race divides at school in First Grade.

"My parents walked me to school on the first day as parents do ... this kid ran up in front of the three of us, stopped, pointed his finger at us and yelled your father's White and your mother's Black," he said. 

"And that's when conversations of race and what the world was like really started happening between my mother and I," he continued.

In his memoir, Kravitz also describes the difficult relationship he had with his late father which saw him leave home after a heated argument when he was just 16. The pair managed to reconcile later in life.

"I got to actually love him in a way that I didn't get to love him when he was alive. Through writing this book I got a deeper understanding of this man's character," he said.

Lenny Kravitz on 'Let Love Rule' memoir