The 70th Emmy Awards made a song and dance about diversity…but sadly that’s literally all it was.
And as the evening droned on, the sarcastic opening musical number confirmed just how clearly the industry hasn’t “solved it” when it comes to diversity and inclusion in television.
While the nominations list seemingly showed a step in the right direction — 38 of the 106 actors nominated were people of colour (up from last year’s 27 non-white acting nominees and 21 the year prior) only a mere four of them actually won an Emmy. With Micheal Che making a joke after the first few awards were handed out to all-white winners, and then James Corden chiming in after another few trophies left the stage, with none awarded to any POC, things went from awkward to uncomfortable. Because while theoretically it was the most diverse Emmy Awards to date, it was also painfully clear that there is a long way to go (the best of the actors couldn’t cover up the embarrassed tension in the Microsoft Theatre). Regina King‘s acceptance speech for best actress in a limited series in Netflix’s “Seven Seconds” was all too telling.
While early reviews were quick to slam the Emmy hosts “SNL” cast members and co-hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost for their part in the Emmy’s lack-luster dazzle, I personally didn’t mind that the show felt a little bit like a bloated Saturday Night Live episode, because at least the duo brought some brutal honesty in their “Weekend Update” style riffs. One of the show highlights for me was Michael Che’s ‘Reparation Emmys’ segment. He said:
‘You know, for so many years, our TV legends and heroes have gone unrecognized.So this year as host, I took it upon myself to finally right some of those wrongs.’
In the skit, he handed out trophies to some of televisions unrewarded heroes – black actors who have ‘gone unrecognized’ over the years, including Marla Gibbs from The Jeffersons, Jimmy Walker from Good Times, Kadeem Hardison from A Different World and Jaleel White from Family Matters.
While I don’t deny the Emmy’s have at least taken a step in the right direction, until we get to a place where people of colour are in those decision-making rooms, long before nominations are even a thought; where people of colour are seen plentiful behind the cameras, writing scripts, producing and directing, where they are thought provocateurs, not afterthoughts, sought after and cast for in starring roles, leading the next big series (of which we know Netflix certainly has no short supply) and most importantly where they too are sitting in those executive chairs calling the shots will we see real change — a change worthy of a rousing applause.