The Emmys (and Hollywood in general) has a race problem — even if the 2020 nominations are a step in the right direction. People of color are FINALLY represented in every major category with Black women earning the majority of spots in “Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie!”
In fact, Black people are overrepresented in this year’s actor nominations, earning a third of the nominations despite making up just 13% of the US population. And I, for one, think it’s about time. Black people have created much of American culture with little to no recognition since at least the invention of jazz. And if you look at the Emmy nominations historically, we’ll need MANY more years like this one before we get anywhere close to that 13% (which really should be more, because of the legacy of Black artists — see above).
There’s just one problem: No Latinxs or Latinx shows (Pose was mightily overlooked) were nominated this year. And in the history of the Emmys, only one afrolatino has won — Jharrel Jerome’s barrier-breaking win — and we didn’t see more Afrolatinx artists nominated this year. Sandra Oh is representing all Asian people AGAIN in the major categories and while I’ll love her forever, that just isn’t right (for example, Asian men exist!).
So how do you solve a problem like the Emmys? Well, let’s start with something that should be obvious — you don’t go around competing for the “minority” spot. I have no interest in non-Black Latinxs actors taking nominations from other people of color, particularly AfroLatinx and Black actors and artists who had to fight harder to get where they are and have been opening up doors for the rest of us. Anti-blackness is real and wrong, wherever it shows up. No, instead, we non-Black Latinx folks need to work with a BIPOC coalition to advance representation behind the camera, as cultural gatekeepers, and on-screen. Here’s how it should work:
Behind the Camera
We need to shout from the rooftops for Cheryl L. Bedford’s Women of Color Unite, the largest group of women of color in film and television. Did you know they recently teamed up with the Bitch Pack for #StartWith8Hollywood, creating the largest diversity and inclusion initiative in the industry? Let’s thank them, support, and sign up!
For Latinx-specific group’s like L.A. Collab, Latinx Directors, and NALIP, we need to ensure ALL of the Latinx community is represented if anything over-indexing Black and LGBTQ folks to ensure we’re not just creating more mess (aka white supremacism) as we go. These programs are good but, of course, the main thing we need is for BIPOC to get hired behind the camera so we can recognize more of our own AND authentically represent our experiences. Let’s get (at least) proportional representation as studio executives, writers, and directors. Then, we’ll really be getting somewhere.
As Cultural Gatekeepers
One of the reasons that hasn’t happened is because of institutions like the Emmys. Part of me wants to throw these awards shows out but the truth is, they do help determine who gets a project greenlighted and how big of a budget goes with it. So if we have to play, then let’s get on some more even footing. TV and film criticism is also largely a white, male game and that’s got to change (obvi — that’s why we created latinamedia.co). Rotten Tomatoes has tried to include more BIPOC women but we still need more (from them and major newsrooms across the country). Hire us, pay us, and recognize us. In the meantime, let’s storm the academies (television, film, whatever) and make sure new members are overwhelmingly BIPOC. Apply if you’re eligible!
As we move the needle off-screen, we’ll get more, more diverse, and more meaningful representation on screen. This is the final product we all get to consume. Think Insecure, Vida, Fresh Off the Boat. For too long, these stories have been ignored in favor of plain white ones, and in too many cases, that’s still happening. Think about which shows get canceled (without marketing) and which get nominated for awards. But also think about what these shows mean to you now and what having Spider-verse or The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia would have meant to young you. Imagine it. And then help make it happen for everyone.
This piece has been updated. An earlier version implied Sandra Oh was the only Asian nominee when she is the only Asian actor nominated in a major category.