Jesse Williams’ BET Awards Speech Brilliantly Explained The Struggle Of Being A Black American
As a rule, acceptance speeches tend to be long-winded and predictable. There’s usually a list of people to thank and some genuine but boring platitude about perseverance or humility or gratitude, followed by a single tear and a wave as the speaker is gently paraded off stage. Last night, however, proved an exception when Jesse Williams’ BET acceptance speech poignantly explained the black experience after he was given the 2016 Humanitarian Award.
His speech wasted no breath as the Black Lives Matter activist poetically highlighted the fact that celebrating “how far things have come” while black children are still being shot by cops is not only irresponsible. it’s deadly. He also went on to recognize the ways in which black women have always contributed to Black Lives Matter and all racial justice movements while receiving far less credit and support than they deserve.
He started his speech by soberly honoring Tamir Rice, who died in 2014, saying:
“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.”
From there, Williams went on to say and mourn the names of other victims of police violence, including Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner.
His speech did an incredible job crystallizing the injustice and emotional toll placed on black Americans. He received the award for his active involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement and more specifically the recent documentary he collaborated on called Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement. The documentary seeks to highlight the growth of the relatively new movement and the ways in which it’s brought issues of race into the mainstream consciousness.
In his speech, Williams took care to address all the activists, social workers, and families behind the movement who don’t have public platforms and ended the speech on a powerful note, saying:
“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.”
As you can imagine, this received a “FUCKING FINALLY” from many people.
Honestly, you should just watch the speech a few times and weep if you haven’t already.