Top 10 Most Interesting Things Jesse Williams Said
By Fatima Bangura
On March 22, 2015, NABJ-SU blessed many Grey’s Anatomy fans when hosting Dr. Jackson Avery himself, the undeniably handsome and talented Jesse Williams. Far from being just an incredibly attractive person, he is also incredibly knowledgeable about the history of systematic oppressions in society. He captured eyes and ears.
10. “If a black girl has purple in her hair, she’s ghetto. But if a white girl has purple in her hair, it’s alternative.”
White appropriation of black culture has been a hot topic for a while. The media has displayed a double standard when dealing with pieces of black culture on non-blacks. For example, E! News correspondent Giuliana Rancic mocked actress Zendaya for donning dreadlocks at the Oscars. She said the young actress must have smelled like “weed.” Rancic perpetuated the negative stereotype that people (particularly African-Americans) with dreadlocks are dirty, smell bad, and must be marijuana smokers. When Kylie Jenner sported locs earlier, tabloids praised her new ‘edgy’ look. Recently, the headline of a post by beauty blog Styleite, read “Beyoncé tries Kylie Jenner lips.” The Beyhive erupted in immediate criticism. Statements have pointed out the media engages in the erasure of Black women’s features and only allows full lips and dreadlocks to be acceptable, sexy, and edgy on white women.
9. “I went from white boy to n*gger in a week.”
Jesse Williams grew up in the west side of Chicago during the crack era of the 80s—a violent, impoverished time and place. He was the lightest person in his neighborhood. In junior high, he moved to the suburbs of Massachusetts, where he was the “blackest person.” It seemed his surroundings were more confused about his identity than he was.
8. “Don’t call me things I’m not. I’m not your dad, so don’t call me dad. So don’t call me a n*gger, please.”
Williams made the perfect argument as to why the n-word should not be used. Race matters and doesn’t matter simultaneously. It matters because people of non-African descent simply should not use the word because the hatred the word represents. Also regardless of race, the word should not be used for the same reason. Black people should stop using the word against each other (even if used a term of so-called endearment).
7. “A person’s words are not nearly as offensive as the policies put in place to put people in cages to live their lives.”
There is always media attention when a white person says something racially controversial, such as the n-word. But as Jesse pointed out, no one is talking about the policies: the New Jim Crow and the mass incarceration of black men or the high levels of HIV/AIDS in the Black community. No one is talking about the laws being passed to disenfranchise people of color. These policies aid in structural violence and discriminations and hinder the fight for human rights and upward socio-political economic movement for people of color.
6. “No one is trying to solve anything…You can’t solve the education problem without solving the poverty problem and you can’t solving the poverty problem without solving [another deeply rooted problem]…”
Racialized issues in America are deeply-rooted and interconnected. One problem links and causes disruptions with another. The usual connecting factor is money. America is an imperialist capitalist nation dependent on the circulation of capital. Money is what keeps the majority of social institutions functioning. These problems are not urgent because capitalists are profiting.
5. “Media isn’t media anymore, it’s corporate shilling. It’s marketing.”
The media’s job is to educate not perpetuate. Many people are unaware that the people who own media conglomerates are also shareholders in the private prison industry and music industry. It seems the media is more engaged in circulating stereotypes of minorities by consistently reporting negativity. This is reminiscent of a social constructing of how heteronormative bodies should view “other” bodies.
4. “Black people don’t know their history, instead they spend their elementary, middle, and high school years learning about white supremacy…Black people invented 40% of the things we interact with every day but we don’t know that.”
I didn’t know that. African-Americans have such a rich culture that leaves much to be proud of. But we are not aware of this grand history. We are only taught about the shackles and struggle of slavery. But know what Black Nationalist Muslim Malcolm X said, “[African-American] history did not begin in chains.”
3. “The less you know, the more you believe.”
This quote is similar to the ever-popular “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” The less facts and statistics and primary information you know, the more you believe what the media portrays and what the power-hungry politicians say. It is in the best interest of the individual to seek an education and experiences outside of the classroom to awaken their inner consciousness.
2. “Be ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
1. “If you are not doing the absolute best you can, you are only keeping someone successful in bringing you down.”
Another self-explanatory quote. The American system is structurally wrapped in social and judicial inequities and institutional discrimination. To silence one’s self is to help the oppressor oppress. We must put our best foot forward at all times for the progression of not only ourselves but of others.
Williams acknowledged his own personal responsibility to advocate for underprivileged and underrepresented groups. He looks forward to filmmaking with his wife to create content contributing to the expansion and depth of personhood outside of the mainstream.