Elie Wiesel, Jesse Williams, JEOPARDY!

“…trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”

elie wieselSaturday, I was watching the previous Monday’s game show JEOPARDY! while checking my email on my tablet – and they say I can’t multitask! – when I read that Elie Wiesel had died. I believed his powerful witness to our inhumanity to each other was a necessary reminder of our need for addressing persecution, wherever it may take place.

I mentioned aloud the news of his passing, and someone asked who he was. I was about to try to assemble my thoughts when this JEOPARDY! showed up on the TV screen: “‘Night’ is this author’s autobiographical work about a 12-year-old enduring Nazi camps.” I paused the DVR recording to say, “THAT’S who Elia Wiesel was.”

One of my favorite quotes of his was this: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Also this: “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”

It was a bit startling how that TV clue about Elie Wiesel popped up nearly simultaneously with that news item.

jesse williamsAs you may know, Jesse Williams, who has been on the long-running ABC-TV nighttime medical soap opera Grey’s Anatomy since 2009, gave an impassioned speech at the BET awards last month. Williams has been involved in Black Lives Matter, as well as other activism, a fact I wasn’t aware of until recently and was receiving BET’s Humanitarian Award.

The latter part of the address:

“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.”

Lots of comments on social media, pro, and con. From the latter, someone started an online petition “to fire Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy for racist rant,” which early on, had about 10,000 signatures, In response, another person devised a counter-petition, “Don’t let the racists win! ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, don’t fire Jesse Williams,” which had over 20,000 signatures, including mine. In fact, there were at least 10 other petitions in support of Jesse, with anywhere from a dozen to about 1,000 signatures.

Interestingly (to me), there was a question, with a photo, on the TV game show JEOPARDY! on May 5, 2016: “Seen here, former Philly high school teacher Jesse Williams as Dr. Jackson Avery on this TV drama.” NO one got the question correct, or even rang in. I suspect that would be different now.

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