If you didn’t know who Jesse Williams was prior to this past weekend, you know him now. The blue eyed Grey’s Anatomy star received a standing ovation for his empowering speech on racism in America at the 2016 BET Awards.
The crowd inside Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles rose to their feet, visibly emotional as the actor delivered a powerful acceptance speech Sunday night.
After Williams accepted the Humanitarian award for his civil rights activism, he addressed the audience.
Watch and read the full speech below:
Read his inspiring speech in full:
“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. It’s kind of basic mathematics, the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize. Now this is also in particular for the black women, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.
Now what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.
Yesterday would’ve been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday, so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.
Now the thing is though, all of us in here getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. Now dedicating our lives to get money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body, when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.
There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done, there’s been no tax they haven’t levied against us, and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here, ‘You’re free,’ they keep telling us, ‘But she would’ve been alive if she hadn’t acted so… free’.
Freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but, you know what though, the hereafter is a hustle. And let’s get a couple of things straight, just a little sidenote, the burden of the brutalised is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, 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 than do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.
We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, 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. Ghettoising 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, just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
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