Mahershala Ali used his Best Supporting Actor acceptance speech Sunday at the Screen Actors Guild Awards to implore America to be more tolerant of the differences between its people.
The speech came in the wake of the Trump administration’s ban on immigrants from several countries, which critics and protesters have said is a de facto ban on Muslim immigrants. Ali is Muslim, and while his words didn’t directly mention the #MuslimBan, it was clear what was on his mind. You can view the full speech above.
“What I’ve learned from working on ‘Moonlight’ is we see what happens when you persecute people – they fold into themselves,” Ali said during the speech. “And what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution in his community, and taking that opportunity to uplift him, and tell him that he mattered, and that he was okay, and accept him. And I hope that we do a better job of that.”
The SAG Awards cap off a charged weekend that followed Donald Trump’s executive order to ban people from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the country. The order triggered protests at airports across the country. The ban included immigrants with green cards and visas to be in the United States. The Trump administration later relaxed the restrictions against people with green cards, but reports from many cities claim customs officers are still barring those people from traveling to the U.S.
Ali said the differences between people are “minutia” that people can choose to see as positives, rather than negatives.
“You know, when we get kind of caught up in the minutia, the details that make us all different, I think there’s two ways of seeing that,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique, and then there’s an opportunity to go to war about it, and to say that person is different than me, and I don’t like you, so let’s battle. My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do back flips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I’ll tell you now, we put things to the side, and I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me. We love each other, the love has grown, and that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.”
Ali concluded the speech by thanking “Moonlight” writer and director Barry Jenkins, and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, on whose stage piece the film is based. He also praised the rest of the film’s cast, any of whom could have won the award in his place, he said.