Last night Viola Davis made history by becoming the first African American to win an Emmy as a leading actress in a drama series. Her acceptance speech was something that had celebrities such as Megan Good, Gabrielle Union, Ellen DeGeneres and even Oprah, tweeting and posting in our timelines. She dedicated her speech to women of color as she evoked women such as Harriet Tubman.
“In my mind, I see a line… And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there nohow. I can’t seem to get over that line. That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there”
There were tons of tweets leading up to the announcing of Davis’s Award, including women of color whom were outraged in how over 7 Emmy’s were awarded before the announcing of Mrs. Davis. This leads us to question the real issue at hand. Not just the lack of diversity pertaining to the Emmys, but Hollywood’s lack diversity when it comes to women of color. There were an endless amount of actors and actresses that took home awards last night, and only a handful of them were people of color. Yet, again another award show continuing to only celebrate whiteness.
We live in a technological society where we depend on technology and science. 3-year-olds are learning to write by using iPads, 10-year-olds are making virtual friends through game systems, and both 12-year-old girls and boys are shaping their idea of what it means to be beautiful by what they see on television. So, I ask you this as a child of color what do you see when you turn on the TV? Who are your doctors? Who are you lawyers? Who are your scientists? What other physical quality do they share with you other than gender? What type of cultural celebration do you see at award shows, other than the BET Awards?
Have we no voice? Do we not produce good entertainment? Or are nominations simply our recognition? Our pat on the back. Last night Viola Davis gave us something much more than an acceptance speech, and something more valuable than hope. She gave us recognition and inspiration. Davis took something as traditional as an acceptance speech and turned it into a dialogue to raise awareness for social issues. Viola spoke to so many of us last night; she spoke to our sisters, our cousins, our friends, and most importantly our children. For our children are our future.
To women such as Nancy Lee Grahn, who commented on Davis speech last night saying “ I wish I love Viola Davis speech, but I thought she should have let Shonda Rhimes write it, we forgive you”. Although Grahn then tweeted “Im a f–king actress for 40 yrs. None of us get respect or opportunity we deserve. Emmys not venue 4 racial opportunity. ALL women belittled”. We then still accept your apology for not knowing what it feels like to be a woman of color in a world that still holds true to binaries; discrimination is not a privilege. And although we may not share the same shade of color with you, you are a woman; a woman that is affected by gender binaries.
So as Viola Davis concluded in thanking all the women of color that have made an impact to the entertainment industry, we want to thank her. Thank you for speaking to the little black girl who planned to stop taking acting classes on Monday because she feared her features were to “african” to get a role. We thank you for speaking to the Latina girl who aspires to be Annalise Keating when she grows up, but lost hope last week. And we want to thank you for giving not only those women of color in the entertainment industry recognition, but thank your for giving us all inspiration.
A Woman of Color