Jesse Williams, best known for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy, took on racism in his powerful acceptance speech at the 2016 BET Awards after he was given their humanitarian of the year award.
He was one of several winners to take on politics as he was honored, paying homage to the deaths of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and others. In true humanitarian fashion, Jesse acknowledged that the award wasn’t just for him — it was for all the activists in the world working their hardest to combat racism in America.
“Now, this award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do,” Jesse said.
Williams received a standing ovation from members of the audience, including celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, and he didn’t stop there.
“Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter but, you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple of things straight here, just a little side note. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. All right, stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
Williams is on the board of the Advancement Project and was the executive producer of the documentary, Stay Woke. He also joined forces with the Black Lives Matter Movement since the events in Ferguson, and that their freedom always had to come with a price.
“‘You’re free,’ they keep telling us. ‘She would’ve been alive if she hadn’t acted so… free.’”
He closed with a call to end the cultural appropriation of the black community, stating that while it’s popular for people to consume black culture, they toss black people aside like they don’t matter. But Jesse Williams reveals that black lives do matter, and they are very real.
Williams said, “We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though, the thing is that just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Well said, Jesse. Well said.
Watch the video below.