On television, "Grey's Anatomy" actor Jesse Williams has saved lives in crisis situations. But his recent activism in the real world far outweighs the work of his on-screen alter ego.
Williams, who in February spoke out against the "criminalization of the black body," appeared on CNN's "State Of The Union" last week to discuss Michael Brown, a black teen fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.
In the clip, Williams tries to steer the national conversation away from allegations that Brown had robbed a convenience store prior to being gunned down.
"You'll find that the people doing the oppressing always want to start the narrative at a convenient part, or always want to start the story in the middle," Williams says in the clip. "This started with a kid getting shot and killed and left in the street for four hours."
The experts who also appeared on the segment nod quietly as he continues. "There's a lot of bizarre behavior going on, and that is the story, that's where we need journalism. That's where we need that element of society to kick into gear and not just keep playing a loop of what the kid may have done in a convenience store," he said, referring to video footage of the alleged robbery which Ferguson police released last week.
"This is about finding justice for a kid that was shot, an 18-year-old that was shot, period," he added.
Williams' objection to airing the robbery video calls to mind the viral #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag, which trended on Twitter soon after Brown's death. The hashtag argued against the media using images that could affect the public's perception of Michael Brown -- and others like him -- by making him appear less deserving of compassion or justice than, say, a white suspect.
Williams wants us to focus on what's actually happening, what actually matters, not what's narratively convenient.
"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. ... That needs to be discussed, that's the story," he explains.
And if it can help stop the next black teen from being shot dead in the street, that's a story we desperately need to push for.
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