"Grey's Anatomy" fans calling for actor Jesse Williams to be fired from the ABC series over his speech last week at the BET Awards may want to redirect their energy.
Shonda Rhimes, the executive producer behind "Grey's Anatomy," took to Twitter Monday to address a petition calling for the show to drop Williams over his speech. Rhimes' reaction underscores why it was probably not realistic for fans to think that they could oust Williams from the show.
"Um, people? Boo don't need a petition," Rhimes wrote Monday night, dismissing both the petition to fire Williams and a counter-petition in support of the actor and activist.
While accepting a humanitarian award at the June 26 BET Awards, Williams spoke at length about the struggle African-Americans still face in achieving equality, expressing solidarity with social justice groups like Black Lives Matter.
“If you have critique for the resistance, of our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression,” Williams said. “If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions for those who do. Sit down.”
A petition to ABC on Change.org, which now has nearly 6,000 signatures, argues that Williams' speech constitutes racism against white people and stokes racial hatred.
"Jesse Williams spewed a racist, hate speech against law enforcement and white people at the BET awards," wrote Erin Smith, the petition's author. "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. There's been no companies making a stand against his racist remarks and no swift action condemning his negative attitude."
Smith's petition references another former actor on "Grey's Anatomy," Isaiah Washington, whose character, Preston Burke, was written off of the show after Washington was reportedly caught making homophobic slurs toward a co-star. Smith argues that not firing Williams after his speech would constitute hypocrisy.
Williams' remarks were not aimed at a group of people or any individual, but at institutional racism and a governmental system he claims aids it. But the bigger reason Williams' job is safe is that Rhimes, Williams' boss, sides with him on this issue. The night of Williams' speech, Rhimes tweeted about her appreciation of the speech while watching from home. She also retweeted a post from Williams' urging the media to ignore a rant from actress Stacey Dash, who called Williams a "Hollywood plantation slave" in response to his speech.
Rhimes is the creator of ABC's most profitable night of television. She produces "Grey's Anatomy," "How to Get Away with Murder" and Scandal," all three of which draw millions of diverse viewers across all races and demographics.
Williams' is no stranger to social justice activism. He has been outspoken for years about his support of Black Lives Matter and other groups resisting systemic racism — just weeks before the BET Awards he produced a documentary on the network chronicling the rise of the Black Lives Matter social justice movement.