On Sunday, thousands of people made the pilgrimage to our nation’s capital to celebrate the 60th anniversary of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington. Comedian and civil rights advocate Sacha Baron Cohen opened with a joke, saying, “I promise that this is not a prank on you,” before thanking the King family and Al Sharpton for inviting him. He called it “an incredible honor.” Cohen reminisced about doing research on the civil rights era for his college thesis and how welcoming the people at the King Center were to him.
It was during Cohen’s studies that he “learned about how black Americans and Jewish Americans and people of many faiths linked arms together, went to jail together, sacrificed their lives together, and achieved historic victories together for civil rights. The Brave Alliance teaches a lesson that we can never forget when we are united, we can hasten the day, as Dr. King proclaimed, when all of God's children will be able to walk the Earth in decency and honor.”
The video, tweeted by user @WuTangKids, is a reminder of the truths most of us hold to be self-evident, and that should never be forgotten.
Full transcript of Cohen’s speech below.
Good afternoon. I promise that this is not a prank on you. I think it might be a prank on me. I feel I was speaking at the Rosenberg Bar Mitzvah. I'm just glad I chose not to wear the man-kini. Now, many of you are probably wondering, “What the hell is a white Jewish comedian from England doing here?” Well, Reverend Sharpton, members of the King family, thank you for inviting me to join you today.
This is an incredible honor. And I must say that I am indebted to the legacy of Dr. King and the work of the King Center. When I was a 19-year-old university student doing my thesis on the civil rights movement, I visited Atlanta and I stayed at the historic Butler Street YMCA. I've never forgotten how I was welcomed by the staff at the King Center and the people of Atlanta.
There I learned about how Black Americans and Jewish Americans and people of many faiths linked arms together, went to jail together, sacrificed their lives together, and achieved historic victories together for civil rights. The brave alliance teaches a lesson that we can never forget: When we are united, we can hasten the day, as Dr. King proclaimed, when all of God's children will be able to walk the Earth in decency and honor.
The power of unity is exactly why those who stand in the way of equality and freedom seek to divide us. They appeal to the worst instincts of humanity, which often simmer just below the surface. I've seen it in my own work as Borat, the first fake news journalist. I interviewed some college students, three young white men in their ball caps 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 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. They made a choice. They chose to believe some of the oldest and most vile lies that are the roots of all hate. And so it pains me that we have to say them out loud again. The idea that people of color are inferior is a lie. The idea that Jews are dangerous and all powerful is a lie. The idea that women are not equal to men is a lie. And the idea that queer people are a threat to our children is a lie.
At other times I've seen people make a different choice. As Borat, I once got an entire bar in Arizona to sing "Throw the Jew Down the Well," which revealed people's indifference to antisemitism. But when I tried to film the same exact scene in a bar in Nashville, something altogether different happened: People started to boo, and they chased me right out of the bar. Those people 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.
And today, the choices we make are more important than ever because the forces of hate have a new weapon that was not available in 1963: Social media. These social media platforms deliberately amplify content that triggers outrage and fear, including fear of the other. This technology gives an unfair advantage to the intolerant. They've gone from Klan rallies to chat rooms, from marches to message boards. It's how they spread their filth, recruit new members, and plan their attacks.
And we've all seen the deadly results: A surge in hate crimes. The murder of religious and ethnic minorities. And on the other end of this mall, an attack on democracy itself. Hate and violence that should have no place in our pluralistic societies. Today, we make a different choice, and we call on people everywhere to join us in standing up to hate, conspiracies, and lies, especially on social media. So to every person online: When someone tries to blame the problems of the world on vulnerable groups, do not believe it. Don't click on the conspiracy or like the lie. Learn the facts. Education, as Nelson Mandela said, is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. So as others fuel hate and division, we choose the empathy and unity that allows us to make progress together for equality, for decency, and for democracy. Especially here in the U.S. today. Thank you very much.
Trump’s continuing legal problems, the car crash of a Republican debate, and the polling numbers defy the traditional media’s narrative that the Republican Party is even above water with voters.