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Joaquin Phoenix called out ‘systemic racism’ at the BAFTAs and the world did not stop spinning

Reiss Smith February 3, 2020
Joaquin Phoenix at the Baftas

Joaquin Phoenix addressed his privilege as a straight white man at the Baftas. (Getty)

Joaquin Phoenix spoke about white privilege while accepting the BAFTA for best actor, urging the industry to dismantle “systemic racism”.

The Joker star used his acceptance speech to address the BAFTAs’ failure to nominate a single person of colour for any of the night’s top acting awards

“I think that we send a very clear message to people of colour that you’re not welcome here,” he said.

“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.”

Phoenix admitted that he himself is part of the problem, as he has “not done everything in his power” to ensure projects he has worked on we’re fully inclusive.

“But I think it’s more than just having sets that are multi-cultural,” he continued.

“We have to do really the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.”

Lulu Wang, who was nominated for best film not in the English language, said that the speech left the room in an uncomfortable silence.

Viola Davies was one of many who thanked Joaquin Phoenix for his ‘honesty, solidarity and courage’.

Many other people of colour were hopeful that the speech marked a turning point in terms of inclusion.

The intervention by Phoenix, one of the world’s most celebrated actors, came in stark contrast to remarks made by Laurence Fox, best known for his part in Lewis, which ended in 2015.

Fox became a surprising addition to national headlines in January after telling a Question Time audience-member he was bored of people using “the card of racism”.

Since then, the actor has made media several appearances to promote his Katie Hopkins-lite brand of ignorance, telling The James Dellingpole Podcast that the inclusion of a Sikh solider in 1917 was “institutionally racist.”

Sunday night’s BAFTAs kicked off with a sketch referencing the controversy starring 1917 director Sam Mendes and People Just Do Nothing star Asim Chaudry.

The skit showed Chaudry telling Mendes: “If you do need anymore brown guys for your war films contact my agent, it’s Laurence Fox.”

More: Baftas, Joaquin Phoenix, Laurence Fox, racism

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