Because I am part of a unity movement (E.R.A.S.E. Race) that gives people the benefit of the doubt, I pose this challenging question to Grey's Anatomy star Jesse Williams in light of his comments on the recent BET awards show. If you knew that what you were saying would perpetuate more animosity between large groups of people in our country, would you have said it?
I personally had a lot of issues with his statements, because I simply believe differently. I will enumerate in a second some of those differences, but my first point to begin any dialogue about race in this country is that those of us who are sincere on the issue of "race," must first be even more sincere on hearing those who disagree with us. Currently, most people in our country are in a shouting match believing that the winner is the person who yells the loudest and garners the most attention via the web, social media and on news or talk shows. Therefore, my differences with Jesse will be articulated with a respect for his differing views.
While there are many statements that I disagreed with, I will only cover a couple here and it will be evident why and how we differ in philosophy.
Statement by Jesse: "if you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down."
My view: I don't support equal rights for black people or equal rights for white people. I support equal rights. "I see people" is a common theme for the ERASE Race movement and while many people will find a reason to disagree with our view of equality for mankind, that's where we stand. I do not want to put words in Jesse's mouth, but I simply wonder if he would bypass a discriminated-against "white boy or girl" because he only supports equal rights for black people. I'm trying to understand.
Statement by Jesse: "“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,”
My view: First I want to say that Jesse paints some very colorful imagery in that passage. However, it is a most ironic and somewhat contradictory statement to see the "invention of whiteness," but not notice that "blackness" is likewise an invention. The ERASE Race movement aims to do away with both. We believe that we should deal with our "humanness." Once we understand that we are all human, then our humanity becomes the basis for respect and equality. Secondly, whose culture is it? When he says "our culture," he is obviously referring to the community that was created out of the invention of "blackness." Those inventions have kept us segregated and separate and like kids fighting over toys, they have theirs and we have ours. Americans should have a culture that we all share because we are Americans. The alternative would be to maintain a status quo that says that we are separate and we desire to remain that way. ERASE Race desires to unify.
I would love to sit down with Jesse Williams for a one on one about how we approach unifying this country. Perhaps he might change some views.