“The Emmys are so white-washed[.] It’s sad that in 2011 and with a BLACK president, you don’t see any blacks represented in acting categories or on these award shows. SMH. We need more QUALITY black programs created,” TyPierce posted on the blog TheYBF.com in response to red carpet photos.
Unfortunately TyPierce’s observations are nothing new. Last year, television veteran and Southland star Regina King surprised many with her letter “The Emmys: As White As Ever” on the Huffington Post, where she noted that, at that time, “there have been only 53 non-white actors nominated for Emmys out of nearly 1,000 possible nominations in the top four acting categories for drama and comedy.” [It should be noted that this statistic from Variety is from the years 1986 to 2010.]
King was also upset that the “In Memoriam” section failed to recognize Alaina Reed, with whom she worked with on the sitcom 227, but who had also been on the television institution Sesame Street for 12 years.
Earlier, in July 2010, NYDailyNews.com’s television writer Soraya Roberts’s article “Emmy nominations 2010: Tony Shalhoub leads only four minorities nominated in major categories” pointed out that “Conspicuously absent from the list was the mostly African-American cast and crew of Treme, as well as that The Wire, only earned two nominations during its six-year-run.”
This past July, in his article “The Emmy’s Rocky Race Relations,” The Hollywood Reporter‘s Tim Goodman continued to be baffled by this year’s snub of Treme, especially the work of Wendell Pierce and Khandi Alexander. Goodman, who also questioned why Regina King was not recognized for Southland, wrote “it’s galling that CCH Pounder never got noticed on FX’s The Shield.
Or, on the comedy side, Tichina Arnold and Terry Crews for their hilarious, overlooked on the CW’s Everybody Hates Chris. That Michael Kenneth Williams never got nominated for his iconic portrayal of Omar on The Wire will go down as one of the legendary Emmy snubs.”
Although Idris Elba was nominated for both his guest appearance on The Big C and for his starring role in the BBC miniseries Luther and Taraji P. Henson for her lead role in Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story as well as Laurence Fishburne for Thurgood, all six nominees for lead actor and actress in a comedy series as well as for lead actor and actress in a drama series were white. In fact, there was one sole win for an African-American actor and that was Loretta Devine’s guest-starring role on Grey’s Anatomy. Unfortunately, her win occurred last week and was not televised.
As the new television season rolls out, there’s little doubt, for example, that white actresses like Maria Bello of NBC’s Prime Suspect and Zooey Deschanel, the star of Fox’s New Girl, are already being positioned for next year’s Emmys. While Maya Rudolph is in NBC’s Up All Night and CBS’s Person of Interest has Taraji P. Henson, who has a best supporting actress Oscar nomination to her credit, not to mention ABC has cast Annie Ilonzeh in its multicultural revival of the iconic Charlie’s Angels, they are not meaty roles that could result in lead nominations like those of Bello and Deschanel.
At this moment, BET’s foray into scripted television is for entertainment-only purposes and, truthfully, might not ever reach award-worthy proportions.
Even when black actors do star in those rare meaty roles, as The Hollywood Reporter‘s Goodman astutely observes, those who vote for the Emmys seem to be struck by perpetual colorblindness. Despite consistent census data showing that the United States is becoming increasingly majority minority, television, especially on the network level, doesn’t reflect that. It’s disheartening to admit that it will take more than just getting quality shows on the air to give deserving black actors their just due.
Clearly there is a bias as to who is capable of delivering great performances when it comes to garnering Emmy nominations and awards. And, that is not just unfortunate for those who live in the here and now. Generations from now, when this time is being revisited, the history will still be incomplete. The sobering reality is that we continue to fight a familiar battle dating back to television’s earliest rumblings.
No, it’s no longer an event when a black actor (or black person period) shows up on television. Getting properly recognized for that work, however, unfortunately is. It is quite telling that the Golden Globes, which has had fewer problems recognizing talented African-Americans, is powered by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
At the end of the day, this country still has a race problem. It’s what continues to feed the worst elements of the Tea Party. After all, it’s not called television programming without good reason. And because of that, it will take more than great acting to lead us out of the paper bag of race and its superimposed limitations. That’s the real reason why a football game got more action from black viewers than “the best of the best of television.”
Article Courtesy of The Grio