Every time Jessie Williams speaks we simultaneously feel butterflies in our stomach and pump our black power fists. In short, the gorgeous Grey’s Anatomy star gets it. We’ve been aware of the fact that Williams is well versed in white privilege for some time now, but in a recent interview with The Guardian the actor was also very candid about the social and professional privilege he experiences as a result of being biracial.
“I have access to rooms and information. I am white and I am also black. I am invisible man in a lot of these scenarios. I know how white people talk about black people. I know how black people talk about white folks. I know I am there and everyone speaks honestly around me,” he said.
“I remember a mom of a friend of mine in the suburbs made some comment about a black person and – I had to be 12, about 60 pounds – and I said something and she said: ‘Oh no, not you. You are not black. You are great.’ It was real. That f-cking happened. And she meant it. And she meant it sincerely and sweetly. She was paying me a compliment.”
Compliments — authentic ones — are hardly a foreign occurrence for the star. But never one to get caught up in the hype, particularly due to the inherent beauty bias some of those compliments are based in, Williams said he simply uses that privilege to further his own social agenda.
“To some people I might be a celebrity because I’m physically attractive. We are programmed to believe that someone is attractive because they told you that blue eyes are hot. I am not going to participate in that sh-t,” he said. “I aim to do what I can with what I have. And I have my [looks] – you know, European beauty standards give me access to things.”
Thankfully, right now that access allows Williams to break down widely held notions about African Americans and the black experience piece by piece. People want to hear what he has to say and he never shies away from an opportunity to shut down a stereotype. Like with his work with QuestionBridge, an online community aimed at redefining the image of the black male and shedding light on the discrimination they experience.
“We are just like your husband, son, your father, your brothers. We have the same fears and worries,” Williams said before later getting into the pervasive image of blacks in the media — a narrative that always incorporates some element of poverty, drugs, violence, or all of the above.
“There is zero evidence, zero evidence that black people are more inclined to be angry in vacuum than anybody else. They are upset. Is being upset bad? Is anger just a negative quality?
“It doesn’t begin with rage, right. It’s a community that’s f-cking hurting and is really disappointed in itself, in the people that it trusted, in the government it paid taxes to. That is where the frustration comes from.”