Joaquin Phoenix shocked BAFTA Awards attendees Sunday when he used his privilege for good and called out systemic racism, as well as people like him who benefit from it and perpetuate it.
During the ceremony, Phoenix nabbed another Best Actor trophy for Joker on his road to this weekend's Oscars. When the actor took to the podium, he said in part, “I feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege. I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry, and in ways that we benefit from.”
Also getting in front of any criticism that some may target him with, he explained, “I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment, although that’s what we give ourselves every year. I think people just want to be acknowledged, appreciated and respected for their work. This is not a self-righteous condemnation because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive, but I think it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural. We have to do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. I think it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us."
This comes after the awards nominated no people of color were nominated in the acting categories this year and only male directors were nominated. The EE Rising Star, an award outside of the principal categories to acknowledge up-and-coming talent, saw Awkwafina and Kelvin Harrison Jr. nominated along with Michael Ward, who took home the prize.
Social media applauded Phoenix for his work while hoping he continues to use his privilege for good and will have more diversity in his projects.
Joaquin Phoenix said what needed to be said. The rest of you industry dons can stop pretending like you don’t see it now.
— machine gun Kele (@kelechnekoff) February 3, 2020
Spot on from Joaquin Phoenix. Bafta members - of which I'm one - need to take a long, hard look at ourselves. https://t.co/MND3CYdDDU
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) February 3, 2020
Seriously though, the full Joaquin Phoenix speech is... it’s... well it’s rather extraordinary.
Bravo, sir. https://t.co/1vmjaOpUxH
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) February 2, 2020
Joaquin Phoenix’s BAFTA speech called out the awards for its historical whiteness — and himself and the industry for complicity with systemic racism, saying it was on white people to dismantle that system from which they benefit. He is correct, of course. pic.twitter.com/6xulkDEVAg
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) February 3, 2020
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