Jesse Williams, a Hollywood actor commonly recognized for his role on the television series Grey’s Anatomy, is facing a tremendous amount of controversy for a speech he made at the 2016 BET Awards.
Williams is an activist in addition to an actor, and in his acceptance speech for the Humanitarian Award at the BET event he addressed topics such as racial and social injustice and cultural oppression.
Williams received the Humanitarian Award as a result of his dedication to generate and encourage awareness of the Black Lives Matter Movement, a movement which brings attention to the racial injustice experienced by people of colour across the globe.
Below is a direct excerpt from his speech:
“A system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. It’s kind of basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.”
Williams furthermore dedicated the award to the “real organizers all over the country, the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers and the students.”
In addition to his powerful words, Williams referenced political cases of racial injustice such as Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner and Sandra Bland.
I personally feel as though Williams’ choosing to bring public attention to such a prominent issue in today’s society was a logical and necessary move. Not all individuals agree, however, as I learned today that a website titled Change.com has generated a petition to have Williams fired from his role on Grey’s Anatomy because of the speech he delivered at the BET awards.
The petition has received nearly 5000 signatures.
I would argue that this petition is a strong example of the racial oppression and discrimination being exercised in culture today. As opposed to being praised and credited for his brave decision to speak publicly about such a pressing issue, Williams is being ridiculed and threatened.
How is society supposed to move forward in regards to racial injustice when every attempt made is oppressed?