Jesse Williams gave a stirring speech at the 2016 BET Awards on June 26 — and it has certainly stirred two very different factions into action.
In the speech, Williams addressed the problems of racism, inequality and police brutality.
“We know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people everyday,” said Williams. “So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.”
He later added, “We’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit … the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
He also wanted to tell those who would criticize movements like Black Lives Matter that if they don’t also have a record of fighting oppression, they are in no position to criticize.
“The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, all right — stop with all that,” said Williams in the speech. “If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
In response to the speech, a woman named Erin Smith has started a Change.org petition addressed to ABC titled “Sign the petition to fire Jesse Williams from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for racist rant.”
The petition calls Williams’ speech “a racist, hate speech against law enforcement and white people at the BET awards.” As of this writing, it has just under 4,500 signatures.
But in response to Smith’s petition, another petition has been started. This one was started by Dawn Murphy on Change.org and is titled “Don’t let the racists win! ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ don’t fire Jesse Williams.”
“Jesse Williams is a bright man, passionate spokesman and a committed advocate of black people and #BlackLivesMatter who took a public stand on BET Awards show, risking his job and career for his beliefs,” reads the second petition, which has just under 19,000 signatures.
ABC has not yet responded to either petition, but “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes did issue one perfect tweet in response to the petitions.