Last month at the BET Awards, Jesse Williams, who plays Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy, accepted the Humanitarian Award for his work with The Advancement Project, Question Bridge: Black Males, and for his continued support of the Black Lives Matter movement. During his acceptance speech, he stood before the audience and fearlessly proclaimed that police officers deserve to be shot and killed on sight, that all White people, including women and children, should be burned alive in their homes, and that the lives of Black people and only Black people matter and that we better not ever forget it.
Oh wait, that’s right. Jesse Williams actually said none of these things. What he actually said in his speech was that police officers can and must be held accountable for their abusive, reckless, and murderous conduct toward Black people (and if you really need another painful reminder as to why Jesse’s speech was necessary and touched so many nerves, Google the name “Alton Sterling” but please proceed with caution when you do, as the results of your search will be incredibly disturbing), that White allies need to do a much better job of showing up and supporting Black people in their fight for equal rights, and to stop treating them as if their only value and contribution to the world and to them is through music, movies, sports, and fashion.
(For those who still haven’t seen Jesse’s acceptance speech at the BET Awards, click here)
Erin Smith, on the other hand, clearly heard a different speech than the rest of us and drew up a Change.org petition to express her anger at Jesse Williams for spewing such hateful and divisive rhetoric:
“Please sign the petition to fire Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy and to boycott the entire ABC Network … [Williams] released a cascade of inappropriate, unprofessional, and racist commentary against police officers and Caucasians. Had any one of his offensive words been said by any other race other than an African-American, they would’ve been publicly shamed, fired from whatever job they had, lost endorsements, advertisers, etc … [His] rant only fuels racism and further divides Americans. All races must unify and take a stand against this…I will not stand by and let this hypocrisy continue [and] let this effect the future of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends, family, my neighbors, and especially police officers. I’ve been ‘sitting down’ for too long. This time, Jesse needs to ‘sit down’ and contemplate the violence he fostered against all races and police officers.”
To date, Erin’s petition has over 16,000 supporters. Two people clearly will never be counted amongst those supporters: Jesse Williams himself, who responded with these tweets to the petition and the fact that this is getting constant promotion and discussion by the news media:
Do not promote empty people & their tantrums. Pure clickbait to gain followers, attention & money, for themselves, not you. Never you.— jesseWilliams. (@iJesseWilliams) July 3, 2016
Because you keep incessantly promoting their cowardly intolerance! Not a single sane sentence in their claim. NotOne https://t.co/18ZgrbfLnL— jesseWilliams. (@iJesseWilliams) July 6, 2016
And Jesse’s boss: Grey’s Anatomy creator and overall shot-calling powerhouse at ABC, Shonda Rhimes, who expressed her support for Jesse with this one tweet:
Um, people? Boo don't need a petition. #shondalandrules— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) July 5, 2016
So … yeah. If Jesse Williams hasn’t been fired and banned from ABC Studios for speaking out against police misconduct and about the deaths of young Black men like Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin (and about the deaths of Black women like Rekia Boyd and Sandra Bland), and doing so during an interview on CNN while wearing a hoodie instead of a suit and tie or for constantly working and speaking out against police misconduct and in support of #BlackLivesMatter, all while making it clear that he’s not here to make you comfortable and will quickly remind you of this if you jump into his mentions to complain about that…
Then you should probably just take your petition and put it in the recycle bin and accept that Jesse Williams isn’t going anywhere, whereas you and everyone else who feels the same way that you do really need to go and …