Joaquin Phoenix Used His BAFTA Speech to Call Out Systemic Racism

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"I think we send a very clear message to people of color that 'you’re not welcome here,'" the Joker star said.

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#EntertainmentActivismjoaquin-phoenix-bafta-2020-speech-racism.jpgRaffy Ermac

Although the thing on everyone's mind last night was the Super Bowl, this year's British Academy Film Awards (a.k.a the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of the Academy Awards) also took place! While many deserving artists were recognized for their work in film over the past year, it was still hard for many people, especially people of color, to get excited about the ceremony knowing that (yet again) no actors of color were recognized with nominations. 

But Joker star and Oscar-contender Joaquin Phoenix used his platform at the award show to call out the systemic racism that, unfortunately, still plagues the film industry, creating a learning opportunity for those that still refuse to use their power and influence for more inclusion.

"I feel very honored and privileged to be here tonight," Phoenix said when he got on stage to accept the award for best actor for his performance as the troubled DC Comics villain. "The BAFTAs have always been very supportive of my career and I'm deeply appreciative, but I have to say that I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don't have that same privilege."

He continued:

"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. 

I don't think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment—although that's what we give ourselves every year. 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 was on are inclusive. But I think it's more than just having sets that are multicultural. We have to do really the hard work to truly understand systemic racism."

Phoenix's words really resonated with people, especially his fellow actors and filmmakers who have been advocating for more diversity in film & TV for years.

"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," Phoenix said when concluding his speech. "So that's on us."

Watch Joaquin Phoenix's poignant BAFTA speech in full in the video below. 


Joaquin Phoenix Used His BAFTA Speech to Call Out Systemic Racism

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