OPUS Mag

Far from timid • Caveat Lector

I'm With Jesse

I'm With Jesse

"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 in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down." 

As most of you may know, Jesse Williams delivered one of the most powerful speeches during the 2016 BET Awards and possibly of the year. Unfortunately, what followed were mostly think pieces about his racial ambiguity and backhanded compliments about his wife. A night where we should have felt empowered by his poignant words became another night of pointless debate. It is safe to say a lot of us will continue to miss the message.

Jesse Williams received the Humanitarian Award for his work with the Black Lives Matter movement and made it crystal clear that the award was not about him.

"This award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country, the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families the teachers, the students that are realizing that system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do."

Yet on social media the continued ignorance of a lot of us have made it about him. About his blue eyes, fairer skin, or European mother. Things that he cannot control but has openly acknowledged in the past. Things that have given him the opportunities to take on roles his darker brothers and sisters were never given in their respective profession. Jesse Williams knows exactly who he is but a lot of us continue to have no idea who we are. We are not monolithic in nature, we come in many shades and hues. Some of us will need to realize that we existed before slavery or we will continue to believe otherwise.

Jesse then began to thank the women, and as he did the cameras switched to his beautiful wife sitting in the audience, smiling in support of her husband.

"Now this is also in particular for the Black women who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you."

Images of Jesse and his wife flooded social media, pointing out her natural hair and body. Making the irrelevant point that her physical presentation is the reason why he was so grounded. That because she wasn't held prisoner by Hollywood's standards she was now better.  I guess those people missed the "we can and will do better for you" part of the speech. Not only were these so called compliments backhanded in nature, it insinuates that women with more attractive features lack substance. Or that Afros and kinky style hair is a better representation of Black people than store bought tresses. That sentiment marginalizes our women and does the exact same thing that Jesse Williams is against.

If you haven't grasped the message by now Jesse summed it up with two words, "sit down". This constant fight for equality needs more than just think pieces and Twitter fingers. It needs action, it requires sacrifice, and it’s a living-breathing thing. It's a ground swell of people day by day taking into account the needs of many and it needs constant support not ridicule. To even take what was said and perverse it even a little bit, shows the lack of intelligence that puts us as a people into dire predicaments. An educated Black man regardless of the mixture of his race took the time to speak on the conditions of the oppressed in this world and all they saw was his blue eyes and his wife's kinky hair. I for one heard you Jesse and I'm with you...

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