×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Watch: Jesse Williams Gives Stirring Speech About Racism at BET Awards

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams used his platform at the BET Awards to discuss race relations and equal rights in America.

The actor, who received the network’s humanitarian award from BET chairman and CEO Debra Lee, for his prominent role in the Black Lives Matter movement, dedicated his award to “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.”

The former history teacher, who sits on the boards of civil rights and social justice organizations The Advancement and Sankofa, also honored “black women, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.”

Williams, who portrays Jackson Avery on the hit ABC medical drama, said the African American community will reclaim their country in the face of police brutality.

“We know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day, 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 and ours,” he said.

He also questioned how much progress African Americans have actually made and whether they’re truly “free” (“‘You’re free,'” they keep telling us. But she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so … free”).

“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 a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich,” he said, citing the deaths of Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Darrien Hunt.

Williams concluded his speech on a poignant note by taking aim at those who exploit black culture.

“We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries 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, 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 strained fruit. The thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”

Watch the full speech below.

Justin Timberlake received social media backlash for his response to the speech Sunday night on Twitter.

Journalist Ernest Owens asked “So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too,” to which Timberlake responded “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.”

https://twitter.com/jtimberlake/status/747276674073395200

After being accused of being dismissive, condescending and dodging the question, the pop star — blamed for leaving Janet Jackson to take the bullet for her Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” — tweeted an apology.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Reed Hastings seen on day one

    Reed Hastings on the Streamer Wars: 'It's a Whole New World Starting in November'

    After dominating the subscription streaming scene for so long, Netflix is girding for a new phase in the SVOD wars with the entry of more deep-pocketed players like Disney and Apple, CEO Reed Hastings said Friday. “While we’ve been competing with many people in the last decade, it’s a whole new world starting in November…between [...]

  • BBC ITV BritBox Streaming

    Viacom's Channel 5 and Comedy Central Join BritBox Ahead of Its U.K. Launch

    Viacom-owned Channel 5 and Comedy Central have joined BritBox, the “best-of-British” subscription streaming service created by the BBC and ITV. The platform, already available in North America, is due to launch on home turf in Britain by year’s end. Under the deal with Viacom, shows from the U.K.’s Channel 5 can appear on BritBox following [...]

  • The-Head

    Behind the Scenes With Mediapro’s Antarctic Thriller Series 'The Head'

    On Sept. 13, the cast and crew of Mediapro’s upcoming dramatic thriller “The Head” gathered at a swanky Santa Cruz de Tenerife hotel to kick off promotional duties for this English-language series, which will wrap shooting later this month. It was day 50 of production, and the cast had been working late, rushing to get [...]

  • The Plague Season 2 Spanish TV

    Telefonica, Atresmedia to Create Content Factory Behemoth

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — In a game-changing move for Spanish-language production Telefonica, Europe’s third biggest telco, and Atresmedia, the original co-creators of “La Casa de Papel,” are uniting to create a new joint contents production giant. Aimed at gaining more scale and uniting talent relations – writers, directors and producers – the 50/50 joint venture will [...]

  • KKR-Backed German Media Conglomerate Finally Has

    KKR-Backed German Media Conglomerate Finally Has a Name: Leonine

    The KKR-backed German media company formed through the merger of Tele München Group, Universum Film, i&u TV, and Wiedemann & Berg Film finally has a name: Leonine. The company revealed its moniker Friday, saying that “Leonine” met its criteria of being associated with its home region of Bavaria and Munich, in southern Germany, and of [...]

  • PERFECT LIFE

    San Sebastian: Leticia Dolera on Canneseries Winner ‘Perfect Life’

    SAN SEBASTIAN —  “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”) may be the most seen of Spanish series this year. Leticia Dolera’s still-to-bow “Perfect Life,” however, is the most laureled, sweeping at April’s 2nd Canneseries TV festival both best series and best special performance for its female leads, Dolera herself, Celia Freijeiro and Aixa Villagrán, from [...]

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content