Emmy Awards A Referendum On Black Excellence

When actor Sterling K. Brown accepted the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for his role as Chris Darden in “The People v. O.J. Simpson”, and quoting Jay Z in giving a shoutout to his wife Ryan Michelle Bathe by saying, “I got the hottest chick in the game rocking my chain”, it was a pretty sure bet that these Emmys were going to be a little different than what we were accustomed to.

In fact, there were four Emmy winners who quoted Jay Z over the course of the evening.  That’s when it was solidified that these were one of the blackest Emmys ever.

Indeed, if it could talk I imagine it would have been something like ‘I’m black y’all, I’m black y’all, cause I’m blackity black and I’m black y’all!’

The 68th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards may have been a watershed moment in the history of the affair, as well as a referendum on the changing tastes of Hollywood. It’s so cliche as to state this, and that is a sad thing in and of itself, but it has been a long and arduous road toward acceptance and respectability for Blacks in film and television. Favorites like Regina King, Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson each have been snubbed by mainstream award shows for substantial, critically-acclaimed works in the past.

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(Photo Credit: Entertainment Weekly)

“Key and Peele” won in the Best Variety Sketch Series category, while The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story took home the Best Emmy for Mini-Series or Movie. Veteran, slept-on actor Courtney B. Vance won Best Actor in a Mini-Series of Movie for his portrayal of trial lawyer Johnnie Cochran.

In fact, the O.J. trial mini-series on FX came close to dominating the night with five awards. Including winning Sarah Paulson for Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie and D.V. DeVincentis for Writing for a Mini-Series or Movie. RuPaul Charles won the Reality Host Emmy for RuPaul’s Drag Race while fan favorite Rami Malek won the Emmy for Actor in a Drama Series for his lead role in Mr. Robot.

HBO’s Game of Thrones took home the Emmy for Best Drama Series, of course.

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(Photo Credit: E! Online)

Noticeably absent from the Emmy parade of Black winners were Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson and their wildly popular television show Black-ish. Kerry Washington lost in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series category for her portrayal of Anita Hill in HBO’s Confirmation.

There was much fervor when Ross became the first Black actress to to be nominated in the lead comedy actress category since Phylicia Rashad in 1986 for her role as Claire Huxtable in the Cosby Show. But today there are many crying foul at her losing out to Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep).

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(Photo Credit: Seattle Times)

But with so many Black winners recognized for their talents, it was inevitable that other fan favorites were snubbed. Beyonce was snubbed in the Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special category for her “Lemonade” video, while Andre Braugher and Tituss Burgess lost in the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series category for their roles in “Brooklyn 99” and “Unbreakable”, respectively.  

Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder, Best Actress in a Drama), Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Best Actress in a Drama), Cuba Gooding Jr (Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Movie, Roots (Best Mini-Series or Movie), Keegan Michael-Peele (Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series), Bokeem Woodbine (Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Fargo), Niecy Nash (Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Getting On), Tracy Morgan (Best actor in a Comedy series, Saturday Night Live), and Mahershala Ali (Best Supporting Actor in a Drama, House of Cards) were among the Black Emmy nominees to go home empty handed.

However, the total tally of both winners and nominees signifies a substantial victory regarding the promotion of Black imagery in Hollywood in an industry that has historically refused to do so.

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