Standing in front of a crowd of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and their allies, Scandal star Kerry Washington delivered a rousing speech on human rights, diversity in Hollywood and gender equality, bringing a star-studded crowd to its feet to applaud and cheer.
Washington took the stage to accept GLAAD’s Vanguard Award on Saturday night, an honour given to significant allies of the LGBT community, in a ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Each year, the Vanguard Award goes to someone in the entertainment industry who has helped push LGBT rights forward. It’s been awarded to people like Drew Barrymore, Josh Hutcherson, Jennifer Lopez, and Jennifer Aniston.
Her speech was a fiery call for the “others” of the world to join together to “fight the good fight” and to work to end a system that leaves some people with fewer basic rights than others.
She discussed how people of colour, women, LGBT individuals, and other marginalised groups have often been pitted against one another.
“Now you would think that those of us who are kept from our full rights of citizenship would band together and fight the good fight. But history tells us that no, often we don’t. Women, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people — we have been pitted against each other and made to feel like there are limited seats at the table for those of us who fall into the category of ‘other.'”
She has a powerful, uplifting suggestion: The “others” of the world need to work together in their common goal and use the power of storytelling to create change.
“There is so much power in storytelling, and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling, in inclusive representation. … We must be allies, and we must be allied in this business because to be represented is to be humanized. And as long as anyone anywhere is being made to feel less human, our very definition of humanity is at stake, and we are all vulnerable.
We must see each other, all of us; and we must see ourselves, all of us. We must continue to break new ground until that is just how it is. Until we are no longer firsts and exceptions and rare and unique. In the real world, being an ‘other’ is the norm. In the real world, the only norm is uniqueness, and our media must reflect that.”
Washington’s message is powerful and personal. But above all, it’s an honest reflection on a world that treats entire groups of people — women, people of color, LGBT people — as second-class citizens, as others.
— GLAAD (@glaad) March 22, 2015