Jesse Williams gave a powerful acceptance speech at the 2016 BET Awards. Accepting the Humantiarian Award from BET head Debra Lee, Williams took the opportunity to address the work that is still being done to tear down oppressive forces and institutional racism. But first–he thanked his parents.
“I want to thank them for teaching me to focus on comprehension over career,” said Williams. “They made sure I learned what the schools were afraid to teach us. and i thank my amazing wife for changing my life.”
“A system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do,” he added. “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 who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves,” Williams stated. “We can and will do better for you.”
Addressing police violence in black communities, the responsibility of entertainers and the reality of race and privilege, Williams’ acceptance speech turned into a sermon and the crowd gave the actor a rousing ovation.
“There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the frontlines of, there is no job we haven’t done, there is no tax they haven’t levied against us and we paid all of them,” Williams stated. “But freedom is somehow conditional.”
“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander, “”If you have critique of our resistance, then you’d better have a history of critique of our oppression.”
And he closed his speech with the exclamation point of an evangelical preacher.
“Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real. Thank you.”