LOS ANGELES – In perhaps the most memorable moment of Sunday night’s BET Awards, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams delivered an impassioned, nearly six-minute-long speech on racism.
Williams – an activist, board member for the Advancement Project and executive producer of the documentary “Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement” – received the Humanitarian Award but said the honor really belonged to “the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers of students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.”
He also spoke about recent police killings of black people, including the 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
“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,” Williams said. “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.”
Williams ended his speech by criticizing society for “burying black people out of sight 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 and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
He added, “The thing is … that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”