Joaquin Phoenix was the recipient of the British Academy Film Awards’ Leading Actor award for his performance in Joker. During his winning speech, Phoenix took the time to speak on the film industry’s “systemic racism,” and called for everyone present to “really do the hard work to truly understand” it.
“I feel very honored and privileged to be here tonight,” Phoenix said to the audience. “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. 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,” he continued. “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,” the actor said as he concluded his speech. “We have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.” Concluded the Joker star, “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. Thank you.”