Petition calls for Jesse Williams to be fired for BET Awards speech

Posted at 8:52 PM, Jul 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-05 20:52:27-04

A petition to oust actor Jesse Williams from “Grey’s Anatomy” after his fierce BET acceptance speech is gaining signatures, but it doesn’t look like he has reason to worry.

On Monday, creator Shonda Rhimes tweeted her support for Williams, who has played Dr. Jackson Avery on the show since 2009.

During his speech, Williams spoke at length about civil rights activists, including the Black Lives Matter movement, the struggling parents around the world and the need for real change. “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,” Williams said.

Many were inspired by the speech, including Justin Timberlake, who became the topic of heated debate himself after praising Williams’ words on Twitter.

Some, including the creator of the petition, were offended by the speech. Posted under the name Erin Smith, a petition accused the actor of giving “a racist, hate speech against law enforcement and white people at the BET awards,” she wrote. “If this was a white person making the same speech about an African American, they would have been fired and globally chastised, as they should be, but there has been no consequences to Williams’ actions.”

The petition, which has been signed more than 13,000 times since it was created July 1, compares Williams to former “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Isaiah Washington, who was let go after allegedly using a homophobic slur towards fellow actor T. R. Knight.

After Rhimes tweeted her support for Williams, the petition’s creator added a call for “a necessary escalation,” saying “Shonda not only praised him, but she condones his actions. Obviously she has no intention of enforcing #EqualConsequences4RacistBehavior and chooses to be a hypocrite. She’s fired other people for less infractions.”

Here is the full transcript of Williams’ speech:

“This award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students, that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.

All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics:, the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize. Now this is also in particular for the black women, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.

Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. 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.

Now — I’ve got more, y’all. Yesterday would’ve been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday, so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.

Now the thing is though, all of us in here getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. All right? Now dedicating our lives to get money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body, when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.

There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done, there’s been no tax they haven’t levied against us, and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us. But she would’ve been alive if she hadn’t acted so… “free.”

Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter. But, you know what though? The hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple of things straight, just a little side note: The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, all right, stop with all that. 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 in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and 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, though, the thing is that just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”