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Michaela Coel’s Emmy Win Was Great, but Actors of Color Were Shut Out of Awards

Bo Burnham is white, but he was also robbed.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Michaela Coel attends the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. LIVE on September 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Last night, the Primetime Emmys saw no non-white nominee take home an acting award. The Crown and Ted Lasso both overwhelmingly swept their respective categories for drama and comedy.

Michaela Cole was thankfully recognized for her work on I May Destroy You with a win for writing, but when compared to all the wins that Fleabag took home the year that Phoebe Waller-Bridge was nominated for the show she created, more recognition was certainly warranted. It doesn’t sour Cole’s win, but it is a reminder that Black and white creative genius are not treated the same when it comes to awards.

When going over the acting awards, what makes it even more frustrating is just how few shows actually were recognized. For Best Supporting Actress, Drama, The Crown was nominated three times, The Handmaid’s Tale four times, and Lovecraft Country got the last spot. That is absurd. I love The Crown, but we don’t need to nominate Emerald Fennell, who was in the show for a handful of scenes and none of them were memorable. In Lead Actor, Drama, of the six nominees, four were Black men, and the award still went to Josh O’Connor for playing Prince Charles in The Crown.

People have been sharing Viola Davis’s Emmy win for How to Get Away With Murder in 2015, a win that made her the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. In her award speech, she said, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” This is especially poignant because the one award won by a Black woman was based on her own work that she created for herself.

Black women have no place on The Crown, and while Samira Wiley won for The Handmaid’s Tale back in her first season, for guest actress, she has not won since, and she tends to be the only Black person with any dignity on that show.

Michael K. Williams was nominated, and while I have issues with Lovecraft Country, his performance is phenomenal and painful in retrospect. If we want to talk about actors who are long owed wins, Williams is at the top of the list. With his passing, it especially feels frustrating. Josh O’Connor is talented; I do not begrudge him the win, but in a year where we have had record nominations of BIPOC actors, to have it overwhelmingly pushed aside for a show about the British Royal Family is a lot.

I’m glad that so many talented actors of color were nominated. I’m glad for Cole’s win and thankful for the work she put into it and the opportunities she created for herself. But not everyone can do that kind of work, and hopefully, next year, the Academy can watch more than five shows.

(image: Rich Fury/Getty Images)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.