The gorgeously talented Viola Davis opened with this beautiful quote by Harriet Tubman subsequent to receiving the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a Drama Series at the 67th Emmy Awards this past Sunday. Not only did she take home an Emmy, but her award was accompanied by a new record as the first black women to win in that category. Within her speech she thanked a bevy of writers and Actresses. The roster included writers like Shonda Rhimes, whose most notable works are Scandal and Grey's Anatomy (which I share an unhealthy obsessive relationship with) and Scandal, Kerry Washington (Scandal) and Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane) for taking us over that imaginary line and redefining what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.
This is what Viola said, prior to thanking these lovely artists. And frankly, it rubbed a certain sour Cindy, by the name of Nancy Lee Grahn, the wrong way
Primarily known for her role as Alexis Davis on General Hospital, Nancy took to her twitter and tweeted: "Im an actress for 40 yrs. None of us get respect or opportunity we deserve. Emmys not venue 4 racial opportunity. ALL women belittled."
So why did was this tweet so problematic and, like the title of this blog stated, come with inevitable brouhaha? Well her statement is absolutely valid because women in Hollywood are belittled. In fact, a male A-lister has the ability to reject an actress if they feel like they're going to be "second banana" to the actress. As we can clearly see,lil' Nancy's got a point.
BUT, women of color, especially black women, have an even harder time in Hollywood and to overlook this is completely and utterly disrespectful and offensive. As Viola said in her speech, women of color do not get as many opportunities in the industry and usually those few times that we do, we are barely recognized for our work, unlike white women. This is because instead of only being belittled for our gender, we are belittled for our gender as well as our race, which is an example of white privilege.
By the grace of Violas win, black women now have a 1 to 67 ratio of wins as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. This must mean that for 67 years, 67 YEARS, for all the drama series that have been aired for the past 67 years, the only outstanding actresses were white, right? Because black women did not possess the qualities or talents of an outstanding actress until now, right? That is absolutely preposterous! And to say this is not a venue for racial opportunity is quite detestable, because what I see is a bitter Betty, who has only been nominated in that category, trying to distract from the bigger picture which is a woman of color recognizing the realities of not being white in Hollywood. The main reality being the lack of opportunities for WOC for these award-winning roles.
Nancy Lee Grahn's tweets and the inevitable brouhaha that accompanied them has taught us a lesson, though. Nancy taught us that sometimes, it is better to silence ourselves; especially in areas which we are not quite knowledgeable in. Instead we should either, A), look into said area by researching. Or, B), we can keep quiet rather than publicly embarrass ourselves. As the old saying goes "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all".