Joaquin Phoenix slams lack of diversity at BAFTAs in acceptance speech: 'We send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here'

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Joaquin Phoenix called out "systemic racism" during his BAFTAs speech.. (Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Images via Getty Images)
Joaquin Phoenix called out "systemic racism" during his BAFTAs speech.. (Photo: Matt Crossick/PA Images via Getty Images)

A month after using his Golden Globes acceptance speech to call on his fellow celebrities to live more sustainably by not using private jets, Joker star Joaquin Phoenix made a powerful statement about diversity when accepting the Leading Actor award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs) on Sunday. Rewearing a Stella McCartney tuxedo he’s sported throughout awards season in a bid to raise awareness about eco-living, Phoenix hit out at the fact that no actors of color were nominated at this year’s ceremony.

“I feel very honored and privileged to be here tonight,” he began. “The BAFTAs have always been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative.

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“But I have to say that I also feel very 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, 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 that people just want to be acknowledged and 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 that it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural. I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. I think that 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, to roars and applause from the audience.

Prince William, serving as president of BAFTA, also expressed his “frustration” about the lack of diversity during his appearance at the awards show.

“We are lucky to have incredible filmmakers, actors, producers, directors and technicians — men and women from all backgrounds and ethnicities enriching our lives through film,” the royal said.

“Yet in 2020, and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to ensure diversity in the sector and in the awards process — that simply cannot be right in this day and age.”

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