In case you missed it, actor Jesse Williams spoke truth to power at the BET Awards on Sunday night after receiving the network’s humanitarian award.
Williams is most known for his role in Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Jackson Avery, but what he should be recognized for is his powerful commentary on racism, equality and social justice.
“This award is not for me,” the activist began. “This is for the real organizers all over the country who are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.”
Williams, who produced Stay Woke, a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke out against police brutality against people of color. “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 gonna happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country, or we will restructure their function, and ours.”
The crowd was on their feet. “I’ve got more, y’all,” Williams reassured the audience.
“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 and then going home to make a sandwich,” said Williams, invoking the names of Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and Darrien Hunt.
He went on to call-out those who challenge anti-racist activism and equal rights, but who do not challenge racism and oppression.
“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 also lambasted the consumption of black culture and simultaneous devaluation of black life.
“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…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.”
Williams finished his speech with one final mic drop: “Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Check out the video above for the full speech.