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Jesse Williams Opens Up About His BET Awards Speech: ‘The History of My People Armors Me’

Jesse Williams Online Facebook

Jesse Williams Online Facebook

Actor Jesse Williams is talking more about his politically charged BET Awards speech June 26. The Grey’s Anatomy star earned a standing ovation while receiving the Humanitarian Award for his activism and support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Words are only as good as the response to those words,” Williams told People of his speech. “But I’d like to think that I give people a sense that they are not alone.”

The 34-year-old dedicated the honor to “the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers of students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.”

Williams believes tackling issues in the education system is the first step in solving issues of racism, cultural appropriation and social injustice – themes he addressed while accepting the trophy.

“Otherwise, we are treating the symptoms and not the sickness,” said Williams, who added that schools don’t usually correctly teach “about African people and the contributions of brown people in the history of the world and this country.”

It’s something he knows about first hand, based on his experience working as a teacher in Philadelphia. Atlanta Black Star reported the Temple University alum taught English, African Studies and American Studies in the local public school system.

“If we keep poisoning our children to believe that we are nothing and that white people are everything, that’s when it finds itself reflected in the way we treat each other,” Williams continued to People. “It’s not that complicated.”

“The truth we are teaching is that every contribution in the history of the planet came from blonde people,” he said, echoing his sentiments made in Sunday night’s speech. “It’s not true and it’s destructive and people are getting killed long-term as a result. People don’t believe that we deserve it.”

Speaking about his learning experiences growing up, Williams said his “really horrible” school system did not affect his education on Black culture.

He said his parents “gave me more work at home from them than I ever got from school. To learn about the history of myself and my people and that armors me.”

The activist plans to create a reading list and distribute it online for others to educate themselves on Black history not usually taught in schools, noting there are many cultural occurrences between African civilization and Fredrick Douglass.

What people are saying

16 thoughts on “Jesse Williams Opens Up About His BET Awards Speech: ‘The History of My People Armors Me’

  1. Harriet Tubman? what about Ghana Mali and Songhia? What about the Moors that took over Spain? What about the anceint civiliations that pre date Greece? What about the mathemtatic and irrigation procedures ancient Africans had before any contact with Whites. What about the fact that ALL life comes from Africa and that the first human were black.

    See the problem with school systems is that they only tell us about MLK and maybe a little Malcom X they dont show you real truth. We learn a whole lot about Europenas but nothing about Africa.

    THAT IS THE PROBLEM. You're daughter isnt learning nearly enough.

  2. You sound like a bad teacher. In every school my kids went to in the south they learned about everything. My daughter was Harriet Tubman in a school play. I think you need to walk the walk and then talk the talk. Your comments are hurting more then helping because obviously racism must have hurt you on your way to being a millionaire famous and spoiled person.

    I am still waiting for my good luck that everyone in that room got but I will never blame my fate on someone else.

  3. Rare Robinson No the problem is us…we called ourselves "African American" and then want to be looked at by everyone us as "American". You don't see the whites of this country teaching british history do you??? No. They teach the history of America…we blame others for not including us but we in the way we refer to ourselves exclude us…his and my ancestors…those Harriet Tubmans and MLKs saw themselves as Americans…

  4. Rare Robinson We should all be proud of our history but we also need to remember that we have an American future not a black or white or Hispanic future.

    I am Greek and my grandmother made sure that we all learned American. Did you know that Greeks are dark skinned and there were signs up that said Hiring – No Greeks need apply? Yes we do not learn enough about china and Africa but we do learn about America.

    The issue is today and what are different cultures doing today. How can anyone argue that Obama is black and he is OUR President. We can only move on by making sure that everyone graduates High School and works within the system. If you don't like the system change it like Obama is doing.

  5. I do applauded you million times my brother. Never for one to hate his own race; that's the key, and you're right on the bull's eye.

  6. And he doesn't hate his own race? That man is no blacker than he is white. In fact, there are very few "African" Americans here today. Just as there are very few European Americans here. And we SURE don't call any white a "European American," do we? We are now so deeply mixed that almost no one can claim being one race. We're MUTTS … MONGRELS…the lot of us. We are Americans. What he missed and continues to miss – what EVERYONE seems to miss – is that "it" is about money and power, NOT color or race.

    It doesn't matter which group of people are IN power, that group will oppress others not like them. Currently, it IS the white MAN. This is obvious to ALL who look around. But make no mistake, if the majority suddenly became black men, they'd be the oppressors, too. In fact, they WERE. Use "Rare Robinson's" previous comments about prior civilizations such as the Moors. Black Moors. They owned whites as slaves. It isn't COLOR or RACE – it is the sick nature of MAN to feel the need to dominate and control others. To have the power (which is currently, money.) Wake UP and SEE the demon for who/what it truly is or we'll never make it as a species. Wake. Up.

  7. Apad'a Solitaire He is more black than white from a genetic stand point since the genes that account for ones caucasian phenotype are recessive. Though I do somewhat agree with your other point. I hate when people preach that we are all the same whether it's the humanity or american banner they try to squeeze us under it's wrong. We are different and the benchmark of a truely post-racial society is the respect and acceptance of those differences, not trying to "politicaly correct" them out of existance.

  8. Give me a break…We are and will always be treated as Jesse William said LESS because we are not TAUGH to know where we came from…that was beaten out of our ancestors..and what are our names…oh, that also was beaten out of our ancestors…What invention our people invented, oh, where are they…? Under the names of white people who enslaved black people, because we were considered as their property.. because our ancestors were enslaved…No, we are not the same nor are we treated the same under the laws of this unjust America….Milton Galfas and Apads Solitaire, I'm not sure what's up with you both..IM ashamed of you…it's PEOPKE like You two, are the reasons why black people stayed enslaved so's people like you two that would run and tell the massa that someone was planning to escape…Open your eyes and do research, you really don't know anything about your own race, if you're really black…JESSE WILLIAM WAS AND STILL IS RIGHT FOR WHAT HE SAID…

  9. The Irish were the first slaves in this country…..etc

  10. Gwen Brown says:

    In history, of this country, being half white (other half Black) means you are Black, even if the blood of a black person is one drop. So, he's Black, Keyna. You don't even understand that and you're american. Also, there was not a hateful word or any negativity in his speech. Why do you and your ilk keep insisting that there were? Have you never heard the idiom "If you don't know your history then you are doomed to repeat it". That may not be the actual quote but you can google it. Duh!

  11. Felicia Murphy as a teacher, it's called European and World History. It's taught in 9th and 11th grades in most states. US History is cover in 10th….

  12. Yeah african american, why this black people called them self african american, so their is european american, asian, austrialian american, south america american, antartica american,arctic american, sooner mars american, pluto american,alien american, black people why just called your self american, just because your black you came from africa, its your ancestor, except indians all of people living in america is immigrants

  13. Look at that face. My people? Really?

  14. Betty Cryder says:

    as long as he don't claim Native, he can spew all he wants.

  15. James Keegan LOL! True!

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