In the episode titled “Islands” that aired on January 15, Dr. Jared Kalu (Chuku Modu), a biracial surgical resident, desperately wants his job back. He was terminated after a physical confrontation with another doctor. Kalu punched the other guy and the hospital fired him. Reasonable enough, right?
The only way for Dr. Kalu to get his job back at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, though, is to file suit against the hospital for wrongful termination using racism as the reason. The irony should not be lost on anyone that ABC’s The Good Doctor brings back Dr. Kalu based on a phony racism charge on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
When the lawsuit is filed, the hospital’s lawyer, Jessica Preston (Beau Garrett) confronts Chairman Allegra Aoki (Tamlyn Tamita) about two other cases involving two white doctors who inappropriately used their hands instead of their words in the past. Both of them only received censures, not termination.
Allegra justifies this by saying they were both “star” doctors and able to bring in large donations which keeps the hospital very competitive on the west coast. When Allegra, who is Asian American, refuses to acknowledge that she “favored white people,” Jessica asks her to think about how it would play out in court. Allegra agrees and instructs Jessica to settle the case.
Jessica: The chief oncologist. This is before I came here in December of '14. Dr. Marshall shoved a scrub nurse during a post-op discussion of some sort. Do you remember that?
Allegra: I do.
Jessica: Your response was to settle with the nurse while Dr. Marshall was let off with a warning. There's another almost identical instance earlier in that year. In both cases, the doctors in question were white. They were censured. Dr. Kalu was fired.
Allegra: You think this was a racial matter? Do you think I'm racist? That I favor white people?
Jessica: Then why the leniency then and not now?
Allegra: They're stars... That happened to be white. Doctors like Marshall allow St. Bonaventure to compete with other West Coast institutions.
Jessica: So, that's our defense? "We're not racist. We just allow our doctors to assault people as long as they bring in enough donors."
Allegra: They were reprimanded. And there were no further incidents.
Jessica: And how do you think all of this is gonna play out in court?
Just when I think this is just another show using race as a baton to weld over white viewers, in comes Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper). Andrews, also African American, shown in the screenshot above, is none too pleased that Dr. Kalu uses the race card to get his job back and lets him know in no uncertain terms that “when you misrepresent racism for something it’s not, it sets us two steps back.”
Dr. Kalu: Dr. Andrews. Evening. I, uh, checked out the twins' file. It's an amazing case.
Dr. Andrews: To be clear, Jared, I don't want you here.
Dr. Kalu: What we presented to Miss Preston was the truth.
Dr. Andrews: I understand that. And those problem doctors and the ways we police ourselves will be dealt with, should have been dealt with a long time ago, but you stepped over a line.
Dr. Kalu: I fought for my job.
Dr. Andrews: You compromised your integrity. The incident with that jerk Coyle had nothing to do with black or white, but that's what you and your lawyer sold for leverage. And when you misrepresent racism for something it's not... ...it sets us two steps back.
How refreshing. On this day, of all days, I think that Dr. Andrews personifies the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. more than the phony play made by Dr. Kalu just to get a job back. King fought for equality based on content of character, not on skin color. Dr. Andrews calmly and eloquently makes that point in today’s world.