Actor and activist Jesse Williams gave the most impassioned (and verbally efficient) acceptance speech in awards show history. In accepting the BET’s 2016 Humanitarian Award Williams eloquently addressed the hypocrisy of the American justice system as well as those who criticize efforts to fix it without offering solutions. We’ve transcribed it below but it is a must watch.
Peace, peace thank you, Debra. Thank you BET. Thank you Nate Parker, Harry and Debbie Allen for participating in that. Before we get into it, I just want to say I brought my parents out tonight. I just want to thank them for teaching me to focus on comprehension over career. They made sure I learned what the schools were afraid to teach us. And also to thank my amazing wife for changing my life.
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. 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 deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday. 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 in ours.
I got more, yo…
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. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than it is live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian 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 getting 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 has 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. “She would have 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. We want it now.
And let’s get a couple things straight. Just a little side note. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. 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. We’ve been floatin’ 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 site 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 then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.
The thing is though that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real. Thank you.