*Joaquin Phoenix picked up the Best Actor prize for “Joker” at Sunday night’s BAFTA Awards, and an uncomfortable silence befell the room when he spoke about systemic racism during his acceptance speech.
In case you missed it, in the weeks leading up to the BAFTAS, the organizers were put on blast for ignoring actors of color in every category.
“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,” Phoenix said onstage at the Royal Albert Hall, Deadline reports. “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. 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,” Phoenix continued.
“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,” he concluded.
The speech has caused quite a stir on social media — watch it below.
“The Farewell” director Lulu Wang took to Twitter to write, “An uncomfortable silence filled the hall for a long noticeable moment. Thank you Joaquin.”
Prince William, who reportedly failed to support his biracial sister-in–law, Meghan Markle, against racially-charged bullying by the British media, also commented on the diversity problem while awarding this year’s BAFTA Fellowship to Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy.
“We find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to address diversity in the sector. That cannot be right in this day and age. I know Pippa [Harris] and Amanda [Berry] share that frustration. BAFTA take this issue seriously, and following this year’s nominations have launched a full review… to ensure the opportunities are available to everyone,” he said.
“Queen & Slim” star Jodie Turner-Smith didn’t hold back when live-tweeting from the ceremony.
“i’m sitting next to half of the black people here and the three of us are laughing at all of [Graham Norton’s] jokes,” she posted as Norton, who hosted the event, addressed #BAFTAsSoWhite in his opening monologue.
“Finally remembered as the year white men broke through… 11 nominations for Joker, essentially the story of a white man who makes himself even whiter,” he Norton.
The BAFTAS caught major heat after unveiling a nominations list featuring no non-white actors, and an all-male list of nominated directors.