Jesse Williams Spoke Out Powerfully At BET Awards: ‘Just Because We’re Magic, Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Real’

Jesse Williams of Grey’s Anatomy made a powerful and impassioned speech about American racism at the BET awards. Mr. Williams spoke after receiving the humanitarian award for his work concerning racism in America. He spoke of a system he believes is intrinsically unfair to blacks.

The BET awards are produced by the Black Entertainment Television network to honor black performers and other minorities. Awards are given for music, acting, and sports. What better platform for Jesse’s empowering speech than an awards show celebrating successful black entertainers.

Jesse Williams introduced his topic by thanking activists and organizers. He then made a tribute to black women. Jesse’s words are quoted in the Independent.

“This award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students, that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. It’s kind of basic mathematics, 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, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.”

Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET Awards can be heard in the videos below. Readers can also view parts of his speech and his comments with Entertainment Tonight in the first video below. However, video of the speech is being removed from internet sources due to copyright issues.

Jesse William’s speech impressed the writers at WSB Radio, who described the speech as memorable. Overall, Jesse is getting rave reviews from across the web this morning.

The BET Awards honored Jesse Williams with their humanitarian award last night for his outstanding work in the field of racial equality. Jesse did not disappoint anyone with his six-minute acceptance speech. Williams used that platform to set forth some controversial views on the racial divide in America. Even those who may not agree with Mr. Williams’ views can appreciate his eloquent phrasing and the pointedness of his impassioned remarks as he made a compelling and thought-provoking case.

Jesse Williams by Gabe Ginsberg r

Jesse Williams words may have echoed in the hearts of listeners, no matter their opinion or race, because of the inherent eloquence in his word choices. Black and white together, watching on TVs at home last night or this morning on YouTube, were met with his passionate outcry as he spoke of the abuses and the deaths of so many people, and Jesse called some of them by name. Mr. Wiliams speech could be said to be potentially effective in drawing interest to the cause.

“Yesterday would’ve been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday, so I don’t want to hear any more about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television than going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.”

Jesse Williams echoed the cause of Black Lives Matter in the content of his speech, but Mr. Williams never once said stated that phrase. He refrained from linking his voice with that movement. He did not name any specific movement but certainly spoke of many activist talking points.

The BET Awards speech was rich in dramatic phrasing and eloquently stated talking points. Not everything he said has been heard before either, as there were some unique points.

Jesse Williams had a fascinating take on brand-name clothing logos and perhaps even tattoos and beyond. He alluded to endorsements and working for companies that brand humans with their labels. It was an interesting view of a brand-conscious society.

“Now the thing is though, all of us in here getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. Now dedicating our lives to get 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.”

The BET Awards speech allowed Williams the opportunity to bring the conversation into new areas of racism, classism, and the human desire to emulate successful people. The issue of trying desperately to fit in by buying things and changing one’s appearance even at great expense to fit the societal mold is seldom spoken of. His take on this stands out as a seldom-heard point.

Jesse Williams by Frederick M. Brown r

Jesse Williams immediately shifted focus to the fully engaged citizenship of blacks in America. He notes their willingness to serve in the military, their diverse representation as labor, their payment of taxes and doing everything that other citizens do. So why, he asks, are they treated differently by the establishment and law enforcement? Why, he wonders, are they still noticed in a different way since they too are invested in the United States as much as anyone?

“There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done, there’s been no tax they haven’t levied against us, and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here, ‘You’re free,’ they keep telling us, ‘But she would’ve been alive if she hadn’t acted so… free.'”

Jesse Williams closed his BET Awards speech dramatically by driving home another unique point: Although the American people love black entertainment, love the black culture, and often adopt it, an unfair bias in the system perpetually disenfranchises, imprisons, and even murders black people.

“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. 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. The thing is, just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”

At the BET Awards, Mr. Williams charged that America is harvesting the rewards of black genius while discarding their humanity as the rind of a fruit. His take on the situation was thought-provoking and an inspiration to many. His use of the word “real” embodies humanity as well as reality.

Jesse Williams impassioned BET Awards speech may have left many stunned, but he gave the audience a lot to think about.

[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]