Sacha Baron Cohen has delivered a powerful speech at the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, urging us all to choose truth and empathy over online lies and hate.
The three-time Academy Award nominee took to the podium in Washington D.C. on Saturday, addressing tens of thousands of people marking the historic U.S. civil rights movement where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I have a dream” speech.
Opening with a joke about why a “white Jewish comedian from England” would be speaking at the event, Sacha – who is also an anti-racism advocate and co-founder of the Stop Hate For Profit movement – explained he’d been invited by the King family, and spoke of the importance of actively choosing to take a stance against division and hate.
Drawing on his own experiences as Borat, he described how hate is ultimately a choice:
“As Borat, the first fake news journalist, I interviewed some college students – three young white men in their ballcaps and polo shirts. It only took a few drinks, and soon they were telling me what they really believed. They asked if, in my country, women are slaves. They talked about how here in the U.S., ‘the Jews’ have ‘the upper hand.’ When I asked, do you have slaves in America?, they replied, ‘We wish! We should have slaves.’ One said, ‘it would be a better country.’ Those young men made a choice. They chose to believe some of the oldest and most vile lies that are at the root of all hate.”
Sacha goes on to share how he once managed to convince an entire bar in Arizona to sing horrific lyrics about Jews but when he tried to film a similar scene in Nashville, he was booed and chased out of the bar.
“Those people (in Nashville) made the choice that brings us all here today – they chose to believe the truth. The truth that we are all deserving of respect, dignity, and equality, no matter who we are, what we look like, how we pray, or who we love. We always have a choice.”
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During his speech, he shared how social media platforms are deliberately amplifying outrage and fear, causing further hate and division in society. He asked corporations that advertise on social media to consider the culture they are supporting. He called out government officials who are yet to pass meaningful internet regulations and he urged social media CEOs to change their business model.
“For once, use the billions of dollars you’ve made to build a product that is not toxic, but safe.”
Sacha added that every person online has a choice too:
“We call on people everywhere to join us in standing up to hate, conspiracies, and lies, especially on social media. To every person online, when someone tries to blame the problems of the world on vulnerable groups, don’t believe it. Don’t click on the conspiracy. Don’t ‘like’ the lie. Learn the facts. ‘Education’ – as Nelson Mandela said – ‘is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.'”
Sacha marched at the event alongside Reverend Al Sharpton, director of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblat and more.
You can watch his full speech here.
(Feature Image Credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)