Who will get the opportunity?

It’s hard to watch Viola Davis’ speech at the Emmy’s and not have a strong reaction towards her words. To be the first Black woman to win an Emmy for the best leading role in a TV series is an extraordinary accomplishment, in which she has finally been recognized for her talent. However, it is also sad to think that in 2015 we are still giving “first time” accolades to Black women, and women of color in general. These women have been a part of a history that makes only certain people visible, when in fact women of color have contributed to society with their hard work, talent and strength—not only in the entertainment arena, but in so many other areas. However, when we look at the entertainment industry and Hollywood we see very few roles for women of color that are rich and dynamic and do not revolve around stereotypes. I think another memorable part of Viola’s speech was when she gave credit to other Black actresses in the industry who have paved the path for this moment. This moment really highlighted the support these women have for each other and that the success of one Black actress is the success of all—even while being each other’s competition for the limited roles that exist. Viola Davis said it best, “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.”

This idea of invisibility again ties closely with limited opportunities for women of color in any arena. This is frustrating because white feminism continues to be completely oblivious to this reality—take the white actress from General Hospital, for example, who responded negatively towards Viola’s recent achievement. Some white feminists tend to get very offended by the idea that there is a difference between the visibility of white women and women of color—that ALL women are equally disadvantaged. There is a battle between gender and race—which one will win? For women of color there is no feminism without intersectionality and there is no compromise for it. White feminism tends to focus more on or would like to focus solely on gender, however, it is unrealistic because of different combination of identities that come together to create an experience unique to different groups. I think the misconception of Black feminism is that it is alienating itself from feminism itself, when that is not the case. The point of Black feminism is to make it clear, that while gender oppression is real for ALL women, identities of class, race and sexuality have a huge impact on experience that cannot be separated.

 

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