EXCLUSIVE: Yara Shahidi Gets Candid About Violent Charlottesville Rally: 'Racism Is Still So Prevalent'


While this year's Teen Choice Awards was a celebration of pop culture, the specter of tragic violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, weighed heavily on a lot of entertainers as they walked the red carpet before the show -- including Black-ish star Yara Shahidi.

The 17-year-old actress
stopped to talk with ET's Lauren Zima, where she opened up about the disturbing rally and the conversations she's had with her castmates about the effect the violence has had on the public consciousness.

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"I think we're all in this strange state because it is, not to say unexpected, but with what's happening in Charlottesville is an example and the personification of hate in a way that hasn't been seen in such a long time," Shahidi said. "We've had these instances throughout the years in which you see unarmed black men being killed, or whatever the situation is, in which we are aware of the racism that already exists."

The actrss said the racism apparent in the Charlottesville rally is something above and beyond the hatred that many are used to seeing on such a public scale.

"To see an entire rally and protest centered around the idea of an entire race being inferior or centered around this idea of hate, centered around this idea that they feel as though they have the space and privilege to be able to walk through [the University of Virginia] and make people terrified to even come outside I mean it's all so insane," she added.

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On Friday, hundreds of white supremacists marched through the University of Virginia holding torches and chanting as part of a so-called "Unite the Right" event.

The rally was met with a number of counter-protests made up of civil rights organization, student groups, anti-fascist activists and community members. Tensions rose between the groups with occasional bouts of violence.

On Saturday afternoon, a man drove into a crowd of counter-protesters who had turned out to march against the rally. The attack killed a 32-year-old woman and injured 19 others. The fatal incident incited many in Hollywood and in Washington to denounce the rally and those who participated.

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For Shahidi, the one positive thing to come from the tragic events of Charlottesville is the galvanization of people standing up against hatred and bigotry and coming together in greater numbers than ever to recognize the dangers of racism.

"I do appreciate that people are more united than ever and I think it is hard for anybody to ignore that racism is still so prevalent and relevant in everything we do," Shahidi said.

During the awards show, Shahidi presented the prestigious Visionary Award to Bruno Mars, and she used part of her time on stage to advocate for people to use their voices to make a difference, sharing, "With everything that's happening in the world, it's so important that we use our platforms as Gen Z to spread this love that is so crucial right now."

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On the red carpet, Shahidi also opened up about her upcoming Black-ish spinoff series, Grown-ish, starring her character, Zoey Johnson.

"Well we start [work on] the spinoff September 5th. That's the official start date," she explained. "We're really looking forward to being real to the teenage experience… it's going to be relevant and real and I'm excited for Zoey to grow up and I'm terrified."

In terms of what fans from expect, Shahidi couldn't give much away aside from teasing, "Zoey gets in trouble. That's all I can really say." Grown-ish premieres in early 2018 on Freeform.

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