ABC And Isaiah’s Fate

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ABC's Ruse

Okay, so the word is out that ABC "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington won't be back for its fourth season and I'll edit myself by saying that I think that the decision to nix Dr. Burke is ummm---baloney and just adds to a disturbing new trend at ABC wherein minority actors have been given the boot left and right. 

But moreover, it sends a clear message Black actors accused of being homophobic, no matter true or not, will more than likely not be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to redeem themselves. 

I am a Black lesbian, so I feel I have just as much right to add my two cents in on what Isaiah's fate should have been. While no one will come right out and say it, Isaiah's dismissal from "Grey's Anatomy" has everything to do with the media's portrayal of him as this angry Black man who can't get along with anyone and hates gay people. 

It has everything to do with an altercation that most of America didn't witness (have you seen a clip because I haven't?).  It has to do with a group of people who think that they have the right to be judge and jury over Isaiah Washington's fate simply because they are gay.

While they will never admit to it, believe me, from day one when the story broke, they've been figuring out a way to make this man lose his job and will use his dismissal to raise even more money for their multi-million dollar non-profit organization under the guise that they took care of business as it related to Isaiah.

It's a fact that Isaiah has been the target of an orchestrated campaign focused on getting him fired from "Grey's Anatomy" since the incident with his co-stars was unleashed in the media.  So what did Washington do when the furor was too loud to ignore?  He apologized, went to "therapy," and went on to perform community service by way of a public service announcement for the very organization that if you ask me, lent a helping hand in his dismissal. Which I will tell you is way more than I would have done. But alas, it seems it wasn't enough after all. 

Not only has Isaiah been dismissed from a hit television series, but there seems to be some agreement between writers in the media to make sure that he never works again with various news stories reporting that he's angry, he's mean, he's difficult to work with, people are scared of him, and the other typical crap that non-Black people say about Black people the minute we have an opinion that differs from theirs. Ask me how I know?

At the end of the day, Isaiah has done more for the gay community than T.R. Knight has done in or out of the closet and it's not just the gay community either. Isaiah has been extremely supportive of the issue of HIV/AIDS in the African American community not just with his time but with his checkbook as well. How many heterosexual Black actors can we say that about?

As far as I'm concerned, the hypocrisy in the gay leadership has reached new levels with this one. On the one hand, it's all about changing attitudes and working with people but on the other hand, nothing is ever good enough.  So basically, once you're labeled a homophobe, you're labeled that for life, even if it isn't true and even if you do everything you're asked to in an effort to make amends and apologize for something you may or may not have done in the first place.

From all of the reports that I've read, "Grey's Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes, an African American woman, was pleased with Isaiah's acting and performance on the show.  It wasn't her decision to can Dr. Burke, it was ABC's.

Minority actors have been dismissed at an alarming rate over the past two years over at ABC. Blacks, including Isaiah Washington ("Grey's Anatomy"), Star Jones ("The View"), Harold Perrineau ("Lost"), Alfre Woodard and MehcadBrooks ("Desperate Housewives") have been let go.  But it's not just Blacks, add to that "The George Lopez Show" and out lesbian Rosie O'Donnell of "The View." 

Not to mention actress Diahann Carroll and Richard Roundtree whose characters were directly related to Isaiah Washington's character.  Now mind you, these are some of ABC's most highly rated shows and so one must ask themselves, what the hell is going on over there?  

Were we used to boost the ratings of the network by being lured with characters that we identified with because of their race or sexual orientation and then once they got us hooked it was "so long Star!," see ya Isaiah!, and peace out Harold?"  It's been how long since Star left view?  And while there have been many "guest Blacks" that seat still has not been permanently filled by an African-American woman yet.

I mean it's no secret that Black actors on network television shows in leading roles are endangered species. I think the NAACP's  Diversity Report pretty much summed that up earlier this year.  So at what point do we in Black America take the networks to task and say, "no, I'm sorry, but not this time?"
I am at point of giving up Robin Roberts and "Good Morning America," my local news, and if I were at home to watch her, Oprah too over this madness and just switch to watching a different network altogether and urging others to do the same. 

I get that Isaiah won't be back but that the show will go on, a show created by an African-American woman, but at some point I think enough is enough. Our television, especially free television, should reflect the diversity that is in America. It makes relatively no sense how some of these shows are allowed to operate without one single Black in the cast and yet we say or do nothing. This is 2007 and not 1957.  If you ask me, Steve McPherson, President of ABC Entertainment has got some splainin' to do, and not that bureaucratic mumbo jumbo we read in the paper.

Today it's Isaiah and tomorrow it will be someone else.  Now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

Let the healing begin and in honor of Dr. Preston Burke's stint on "Grey's Anatomy," why not send band-aids to Steve McPherson, President of ABC Entertainment Group in hopes of him getting the message.

Here's how to reach Steve McPherson:  Steve McPherson, President, ABC Entertainment
Disney ABC Television Group, 500 South Buena Vista Street, Burbank, CA91521.

Based in Los Angeles, Black Star contribruting columnist Jasmyne A. Cannick is a nationally syndicated race, culture, and social issues journalist and critic.  She can be reached at or

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