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Oscars 2021: why Tyler Perry’s viral Oscars speech has proven so incredibly divisive

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Tyler Perry, winner of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, poses in the press room during the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images)

“Just refuse hate,” the Academy Award-winning director urged viewers in his speech. “Don’t hate anybody.”

Tyler Perry was honoured with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at this year’s Oscars, and he used his time in the Academy Awards spotlight to share an important message with all those watching at home.

“It is my hope that all of us would teach our kids, and not only to remember, just refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody,” the Madea’s Family Funeral actor and director said, urging viewers to “stand in the middle.”

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Perry continued: “I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican, or because they are Black, or white, or LGBTQ+.

“I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. 

“And I would hope that we refuse hate.”

In his speech, which has since gone viral on social media, Perry went on to thank his mother for teaching him to refuse to succumb to “blanket judgments.”

He added that he dedicated his award “to anyone who wants to stand in the middle – no matter what’s around the walls – stand in the middle, because that’s where healing happens.”

“That’s where conversation happens,” Perry continued. “That’s where change happens – it happens in the middle.

“So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgement, and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this is for you, too.”

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Perry’s speech has since gone viral on Twitter, with many praising the director for spreading a message of love and unity during these trying times.

“Congratulations Tyler, you humanitarian award-winning King,” tweeted Mariah Carey. “Celebrating you tonight and always!!!”

“Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry; I’d meet him in the middle or follow him… pretty much anywhere,” added NBC’s Stephanie Ruhle.

CBS correspondent David Begnaud said simply: “When Tyler Perry speaks, it’s a speech that inspires.”

And White House correspondent April D Ryan tweeted: “My friend Tyler Perry is always so poignant and intentional with his speeches. 

“He is a man of faith who has overcome so much and he uses his speeches to inspire and encourage us all.”

However, many expressed unease over Perry’s comments about the US police force – particularly in the wake of the guilty verdict at Derek Chauvin’s trial in the killing of George Floyd.

“Not Tyler Perry acting like police officers are an oppressed group…” tweeted one viewer.

Journalist Kathleen Newman-Bremang, meanwhile, posted: “Police officers are not an oppressed group. No one ‘hates’ the police because of undue prejudice. It’s because they engage in state-sanctioned violence against all of the groups Tyler Perry said we shouldn’t hate!”

ACT For America founder Brigitte Gabriel tweeted: “Tyler Perry said he refuses to hate someone because they’re a police officer while accepting a humanitarian award at the Academy Awards and cancel culture is already coming for him.”

And one more Twitter user asked: “Why did Tyler Perry build Madea’s whole storyline on being against the p0lice if he was just gonna endorse them?”

At the time of this article’s publication, Perry has yet to respond to the internet backlash over his speech.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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