Jesse Williams Was The Most Important Part of The 2016 BET Awards
No, seriously, Jesse for prezzie.
The perpetually woke Jesse Williams took home the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards. Williams, of Grey’s Anatomy fame, is a former teacher turned actor who notably uses his platform for education and activism. Even Samuel L. Jackson took some time from accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award to crown Williams “the closest thing I’ve seen to a 1960s activist.” Jackson went on to say, “That brotha is right and he’s true, and when you hear what he said make sure you vote and take eight people with you to go vote, so we can fix this.”
Williams’ speech started out innocuously enough, with him thanking BET President Debra Lee, his parents and his wife. But we knew it was about to get real when he went into, “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 are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.”
But that was just the beginning. Williams, who is is the youngest member of the board of directors at The Advancement Project, a civil rights think tank and advocacy group, went on to acknowledge that “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 the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich.”
The next part of his speech was particularly relevant and brave, as he spoke before an audience of highly paid entertainers. “Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money — that alone isn’t gonna stop this,” Williams said. “All right. Now dedicating our lives, 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.”
They don’t hear you, though, J! While chewing gum and taking his time to get a few things off his chest, Williams ethered every argument critics have lobbied against the Black Lives Matter movement and dismantled the pervasive idea that there is a correct way for black people to respond to oppression.
“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander,” he said. “That’s not our job, all right— 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, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
Sit down. Those two words reverberated around the world Sunday night. Many people felt the show should have concluded right there, with Williams’ powerful words. Watch the speech in its entirety below.