If you missed the BET Awards, this year’s awards show was a poignant and topical reminder that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is much-needed in today’s America.
Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar opened the show with a powerful performance of ‘Freedom’ from her latest album Lemonade. The spectacular performance, which involved pyrotechnics and a flooded stage, began with an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream” – totally appropriate for Queen Bee’s newfound political artistry. But the moment everyone is talking about is Jesse Williams’ acceptance speech for BET’s Humanitarian Award. The Grey’s Anatomy star and Black Lives Matter activist made his air-time count by discussing racism and police brutality.
“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 a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich,” Williams said.
“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’re going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function in ours.”
Williams dedicated his award to the “real organizers all over the country,” mentioning activists, civil rights lawyers, and struggling families. The 34-year-old also spoke about black women and the struggles unique to them. To “the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves…We can and will do better for you.”
The actor also touched on cultural appropriation.
“We’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of site and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them and gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes, before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
Williams’ speech will go down as one of the most moving acceptance speeches in awards show history, and other celebrities took note. Justin Timberlake, who has been widely criticized for appropriating black culture in the manner Williams was talking about, tweeted: “@iJesseWilliams tho…#Inspired #BET2016.”
Twitter users immediately took issue with the statement.
“So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too. #BETAwards,” @ tweeted at the singer.
Timberlake responded with: “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.”
The ‘Cry me a River’ singer was then called out for his condescending, white-centric statement and did some backtracking, but it was too late. He did what so many ignorant people do – he made it about
all white people.
“I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response. I shouldn’t have responded anyway…” he then tweeted.
“I forget this forum sometimes… I was truly inspired by
@iJesseWilliams speech because I really do feel that we are all one… A human race,” he continued.
“I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US.”
This guy just doesn’t get it, but thankfully we live in a time when everyday people can call out celebrities on their racial insensitivity.
Watch the whole speech below.
“the more you realize we are the same” – Justin Timberlake.
So you get judged by the color of your skin too? pic.twitter.com/2YHwKbQFI0
— [:•-•:] (@DubOnDaBeatz) June 27, 2016
Image credit: Instagram, Twitter