Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams is facing calls for his firing after he delivered a racially-charged acceptance speech at the BET Awards last week, during which the actor vilified police officers and accused white people of appropriating and then profiting from black culture.
“Sign the petition to fire Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy for racist rant,” reads the headline for the petition, posted at change.org by Erin Smith.
The petition quickly gathered 5,400 signatures after it was posted over the weekend, exceeding its 5,000-signature goal.
“Jesse Williams spewed a racist hate speech against law enforcement and white people at the BET awards,” the petition reads. “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.”
While onstage accepting BET’s Humanitarian Award on June 26, Williams said that the “invention called whiteness uses and abuses” the black community, “burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our dollars, our entertainment like oil — black gold! — ghetto-izing and demeaning our creations and stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
“If you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down,” the 34-year-old actor and prominent Black Lives Matter activist added.
Grey’s Anatomy creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes took to Twitter on Sunday to dismiss the petition.
“Um, people? Boo don’t need a petition,” Rhimes wrote.
Um, people? Boo don’t need a petition. #shondalandrules
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) July 5, 2016
Williams also seemingly responded to the petition on his own Twitter account, writing: “Do not promote empty people & their tantrums. Pure clickbait to gain followers, attention & money, for themselves, not you. Never you.”
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
Williams has played Dr. Jackson Avery on the ABC drama for seven seasons.
The actor protested in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014. He later said on CNN’s State of the Union that “there’s a complete double standard and a complete different experience that a certain element of this country has the privilege of being treated like human beings, and the rest of us are not treated like human beings, period.”