More than one week after his impassioned BET Awards speech condemning the treatment of African-Americans and Black culture in America, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams is at the center of several petitions backing and dismissing him for his statements. The actor was the recipient of the Humanitarian Award at the July 26 ceremony, and now one Change.org petition is looking to have him fired from the prime-time drama while others on the site want him to keep his position.
The first call to action was started by Erin Smith, who wrote Williams’ remarks “spewed a racist, hate speech against law enforcement and white people at the BET awards. 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.”
Smith continued, “There’s been no companies making a stand against his racist remarks and no swift action condemning his negative attitude. Why was Burke’s character fired from Grey’s Anatomy after his inappropriate homophobic slur, but nothing for Jesse Williams? Why the one-way street? Why the support for a hater? Why the hypocrisy? #AllLivesMatter All humans bleed the same color. #EqualConsequences4RacistBehavior.”
The petition – aimed at ABC – has spurred others to respond in support of the activist, who has played Dr. Jackson Avery on Shonda Rhimes’ hit show since 2009.
Dawn Murphy launched a bigger petition pleading not to “let the racists win.” It currently has 19,800 backers compared to Smith’s 5,7oo supporters. The Bedford, Massachusetts native called Williams 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.”
She urges ABC executives and Rhimes to “support this brave leader, not just by not firing him or in any way diminishing his role or pushing out, but by openly standing with him and speaking against hate in any form. Don’t just tell the racists, “No.” Show them!”
There are two other Change.org petitions, with smaller signature goals also aiming to save Williams’ job.
Rhimes, who created the series in 2005, tweeted a response to the initial petition Monday night.
Um, people? Boo don't need a petition. #shondalandrules
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) July 5, 2016
Williams seems to have also responded to the request a day earlier.
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
ABC has not commented on the matter.