Days before Lady Gaga performs the national anthem at President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, the singer delivered an impassioned speech denouncing white supremacy on Saturday. White people have a "responsibility to unlearn" and accept the "honest truth" about U.S. history, Gaga said when she accepted the Higher Ground award in a virtual ceremony. The award is presented by the King Center, the non-profit organization established by Coretta Scott King in memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
During her speech, Gaga spoke about her own racial bias and her journey to understanding racial justice. She said she is "aware" of the "large platform" she has as a famous white person. "My racial identity alone centers my whiteness while I’m still very much finding my place in crating Dr. King Jr’s beloved community," Gaga said, reports NME. She then dedicated her award to people of color and had a message for white people.
"Black lives matter. Black life matters. Blackness matters. Black joy matters," Gaga said. "White people, I believe that Black life represents the best of our nation and as white people, I believe we have a responsibility to unlearn, to accept the honest truth about the history of our country, admit that white supremacy makes us unhealthy and change our own behaviors to contribute to a world where freedom is real for everyone."
White people need to "right our wrongs without shame, we must change our actions and we must do this for ourselves," Gaga continued. She then referenced King's own words, explaining, "I believe white people must qualitatively heal our insides and we must quantitatively change our actions and behaviors. Unlearning allows me to walk through the world differently. I no longer say I don’t see color, as I used to say. Instead, I now celebrate color. Saying I don’t see color was once the greatest thing standing in my way of understanding what a beloved community requires."
Part of the "unlearning" process means identifying and fighting against "radicalized social constructs," Gaga said. White people need "moral healing from centuries of unearned power," she said, adding that systems that prop up white supremacy were created by humans, not nature. Just like anything created by humans, they can be "dismantled" by humans as well, the A Star Is Born star said.
"I believe that one way freedom can be possible is when white people accept systems of oppression serve us while literally taking the lives of people of color," she continued. “Simply by default, white people who look like me are taught that we are fine and those other people need fixing. I invite you in joining me in unlearning this American narrative. I invite us to stop asking ‘What is wrong with them?’ and instead relentlessly ask ‘What is wrong with us?’”
Gaga will be among the many celebrities taking part in Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. She will perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take their oaths of office. Jennifer Lopez is also set to perform during the ceremony. On Wednesday night, Tom Hanks will host a primetime special, Celebrating America, which begins at 8:30 p.m. ET.