But the next morning, instead of reciting catchy lyrics from the summer’s biggest hits, many viewers were discussing a poetic rallying call from activist and actor Jesse Williams.
With a glass statue in hand — Williams was this year’s recipient of the BET Humanitarian Award — the Grey’s Anatomy star shut down critics of Black liberation movements and offered affirmation and inspiration to those fighting for equality for people of color.
“Let’s get a couple of things straight. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander — that’s not our job so let’s stop with all that,” he said. “If you have a critique for our resistance then you’d better have an established record, a critique of our oppression. 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, 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 and stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
The 34-year-old father of two ended with what will be remembered as the most impactful line of the night, a sentence that embodied the contributions and greatness of Black people while addressing the inhumanity in the treatment of the community.
“Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real,” he concluded.
But Williams is no stranger to being “woke.” Check out nine other times he spoke perfectly about race in America.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty