“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 no how. 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. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people… People who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman. To be black.”
Viola Davis’ acceptance speech for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 67th Emmy Award Show
Hey guys. How’s it going? Congratulations on getting your nominations out. I’m sure that your staff worked tirelessly to collect the ballots and organize the press events. And your colleagues at PricewaterhouseCoopers were probably under a lot of pressure as they counted the votes. Does Pricewaterhouse Coopers still count the votes? I know that they did. I know this because I knew everything about your awards ceremony when I was a kid. I owned every book about your history, I started printing ballots as soon as I figured out how to use a printer, and I could recite some acceptance speeches by heart. Yup, I liked you. I really liked you.
I fantasized about winning one of your awards; I practiced my surprise face in the mirror (wide, teary eyes with a hand over my open mouth). I thought that if I worked hard enough, if I honed my talent, that one day I could be good enough to sit among you.
I didn’t see a reflection of myself among your nominees. That doesn’t matter, I thought. I’ll be the exception. I’ll be the first.
I cheered as other exceptions were ushered into your elite club. I cried as I watched Halle Berry accept her statue, I screamed when Mo'Nique won for Precious, and even though Rita Moreno first held her Oscar almost two decades before I was born, I would stare at pictures of her in your backstage press room thinking that maybe one day that could be me. I’ll be the exception. I’ll be the first.
Earlier this year Kerry Washington said “[We] have been pitted against each other and made to feel like there are limited seats at the table for those of us that fall into the category of ‘other’… As ‘others’ we are taught to be successful we must reject those ‘other others’ or we will never belong.”
I watched your nominations come out today. All white acting nominees, two years in a row. You pulled your very own Tom Hanks. And in doing so, you have minimized the already limited number of seats. A dystopian game of musical chairs.