Usher used his BETAwards performance to make a statement against Donald J. Trump (click HERE if you missed that), Empire’s Taraji P. Henson also warned viewers about Trump while accepting her award for best actress.
But it was actor Jesse Williams, who commanded the spotlight with his impassioned speech on racial inequality, cultural appropriation and police brutality as he accepted the year’s humanitarian award.
In his nearly five-minute speech, the former public school teacher, Grey’s Anatomy breakout and Advancement Project board member managed to say EVERYTHING that needed to be said about racism in today’s culture.
In case you missed it, watch Williams’ full speech below…
VIDEO: BET Awards: Jesse Williams Spits Knowledge Like a Seasoned MC
The Grey’s Anatomy actor and prominent Black Lives Matter activist evoked the name of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old fatally shot by a white police officer in Cleveland in 2014, and several other black people killed by police or while in police custody as he accepted this year’s humanitarian award.
Yesterday would have 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 and then going home to make a sandwich.
Williams received a standing ovation for his powerful words as he dedicated the award to “real organizers all over the country,” including activists, civil rights attorneys, struggling parents and students. He also gave a specific shout-out to “the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves.” “We can and will do better for you,” he told them.
The activist also slammed critics of the Black Lives Matter movement, stating:
The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander… that’s not our job. Stop all of 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.
Williams goes on to say:
“Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day.
So what’s going to happen is we’re going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function in ours.”
Other quotables from Williams’ powerful speech include his criticism of our nation’s practice of consuming Black culture while devaluing 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… ghetto-lyzing 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.”