Watch Grey’s Anatomy Star Jesse Williams’s Powerful BET Awards Speech
Jesse Williams earned a standing ovation for his powerful speech at the 2016 BET Awards on Sunday night.
While receiving this year’s humanitarian award for his work as an activist, the Grey’s Anatomy star and Dartmouth native took to the mic to deliver a strong and eloquent speech on justice and race in America.
“This award, this is not for me,” Williams said. “This is for the real organizers all over the country, the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.”
Williams, a graduate of the Moses Brown School in Providence, went on to speak out against police brutality directed towards African Americans. From Tamir Rice to Eric Garner, the actor invoked the names of several people who have been killed by law enforcement in controversial cases over the years.
“What we’ve been doing is looking at the data, and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm, and not kill white people every day,” Williams said. “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, and ours.”
He concluded his speech by calling out those who appropriate black culture as well as those who criticize vocal black activists but refuse to say a word about the brutality that the African American community constantly faces.
“We’ve been floating 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 of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil—black gold,” Williams said. “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, “Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Check out Williams’s full speech below.