BET Awards Speech: 'This Invention Called Whiteness Uses and Abuses Us'

"...burying black people out of sight, out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment…"

Actor Jesse Williams (Grey's Anatomy) received the State Farm Humanitarian Award at the BET Awards Sunday night and filled his five minute speech with as many tropes as one would expect from a progressive black activist.

Williams, born to a black father and Swedish mother, accepted the award on behalf of civil rights organizers across America and all the struggling (black) families out there "who are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do."

He added that the award was also for "the black women who have spent their lifetime dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves" and promised, "we can and will do better for you."

Bringing the crowd to their feet with wild applause, Williams said he's been "looking at the data:"

"We know that the police somehow manage to de-escalate, 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."

Williams went on to invoke the people that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement: Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and a specific criticism on the killing of Tamir Rice, where he accused the police officers of pulling "a drive by on a 12-year-old kid… and then going home to make a sandwich." 

"So, I don't want to hear anymore about how far we have come," Williams added. "Tell Rekia Boyd [shot by Chicago cop] how much better it is to live in 2012 than it was in 1712 or 1612."

Then, he had a message for all the people in the audience -- the very rich people -- telling them that being successful isn't enough to stop the injustice. Williams chided all who were gathered for "dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone's brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our body, now we pray to get paid for brands on our body." 

Plenty of endorsement jewelry clashed and clanged as the audience roared with applause, standing strong in ridiculously expensive famous-label footwear.

Freedom was the next topic, or at least, the illusion of freedom. Williams said: "Freedom is somehow always conditional here. 'You're free,' they keep on telling us. But see, she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so -- free. Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter. But, you know what though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now."

Williams saved his message to white people for the end, especially those who would try and stand up beside blacks in the "struggle" for equality:

"And let's get a couple things straight -- this is a little side note: The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That's not our job, all right? Stop with all that. 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. 

"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, 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, though, just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real. Thank you."

As is customary in the era of social media reactions, those not in attendance at the BET Awards commented on the show via Twitter. Unfortunately for Justin Timberlake, hashtagging Williams's speech as "#Inspired" is a horrible thing to do if you are white and sing "black music," as TruthRevolt reports here.

While that was once a favored ideal of the progressive left, the notion of racial unity in Obama's America is a lost cause, thanks in large part to movements like Black Lives Matter, which has successfully revived segregationist thought.

Besides the Left eating one of its own, the fiery diatribe by Williams, and Usher's "Don't Trump America" shirt, the night belonged to Hillary Clinton, as Newsbusters noted. There were admonitions-o-plenty to "vote smart," "know your politicians," and "pull together and turn this country around."

"Welcome to the White House, Hillary Clinton," predicted Blackish star Tracee Ellis Ross.

Issues

Organizations