Jesse Williams Continues to Speak Out: ‘People Are Out Here Suffering’

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Jesse Williams — who earned wide praise for his speech about racial inequality at the BET Awards on Sunday — continued to speak out about injustice in interviews after the show.

“What I’d like to see us do is return to a space where it’s OK for folks to be proud and outwardly Black in public and not have to feel like we have to be safe to live in white spaces, or to make everyone else comfortable when we’ve spent centuries being uncomfortable,” Williams said in the media room after the show on Sunday, according to BET. “People are getting more comfortable being political. We live here, we pay taxes, we should be able to talk about it.”

The Grey’s Anatomy actor, who received the BET humanitarian award, condemned police brutality in his speech and invoked the names of black people who have been killed by law enforcement officers. He also criticized society for “extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold.”

Read more: Read the Full Transcript of Jesse Williams’ Powerful Speech on Race at the BET Awards

“Just because I can dunk or act doesn’t mean I have to shut the hell up about issues that actually affect me and my people. We cannot allow them to extract from the Black community the best and brightest in a particular genre of expression that makes money for white corporations, and then separate us from the rest of the people,” Williams said in the media room after the show. “People are out here suffering. People are out here poor, and abandoned, and unsupported, and just because we get to be here tonight doesn’t mean that we’ve made it. We ain’t made it.”

He also told Entertainment Tonight on Sunday that his award represented a larger movement gaining traction.

“I’m here for all the incredible protestors, activists, attorneys, organizers that are sacrificing [an] incredibly great deal to be heard and get access to equal rights and justice in this country,” he said. “[The BET Awards] recognizing me is really recognizing them in my view, and I think that means that we’re getting traction.”

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