It’s Monday morning and two days before the official beginning of Fall. I won’t be keeping you for very long, MOM Squad. Like you, I have coffee to procure and a wardrobe that needs rotating. Before I begin, I want to send hugging and high five vibrations to Viola Davis for being the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress in the award’s 67-year history! That moment, her speech, that dress and THAT HAIR were historic. *Shakes under the weight of the presence of God’s glorious handiwork*
Let me ask you a question since we only have a few minutes. Have you ever sat back, looked around you and marveled at how unrelated events or the experiences of strangers seem to mirror your reality?
Take this post from HONY, for example:
Now, this was the follow up post in this nameless man’s saga. In the previous one, he spoke about how he found himself homeless after a he failed to make consecutive sales in his real estate business. Cue the “awwws” and broken heart emojis from the HONY community. Of course there were the offers for a solution to his dilemma, which is one of the reasons I follow HONY: to watch out for those members of the community who ARE problem solvers. They give me hope. I don’t know what question Brandon asked the Nameless Man to prompt him to respond in the manner in which he did…all I know is that it got a lot of folk of a certain persuasion pretty riled up. Folk who probably think of themselves as “good people”. After all, only good people follow HONY, don’t they?
I wish I had a gentler way to put this: There is a psychosis that Good White People have to grapple with, but they can’t do this until they recognize their ailment first. The Nameless Man was not incorrect in his assessment of his interaction with Whiteness as a man with dark skin when he said “…when he’s crushed down one thousand times, and when he absolutely needs it, he will play that card to save his self-esteem vis-à-vis me. I’m not saying it’s a choice. It’s not a moral thing. I’m saying it’s a feature of his soul that he doesn’t know is there.”
Those of us who have ever spent time working in a professional setting know exactly what the Nameless Man is talking about. If you’ve ever had a White woman claim credit for the execution of a marketing campaign (as I have), or had a white male boss posture himself as the originator of a theoretical approach to a scientific or mathematical problem that was brilliant (as my sister, my former room mate, several people on this very blog have revealed to have suffered the same thing), or watched in horror as folk still insist that Elvis was the originator of Rock n Roll, then you have a sense of what the Nameless Man is talking about. History bears out this ugly trend as far back as “Eli Whitney’s” Cotton gin (whose design he reportedly bought from a slave for a nickel) if not before. And if this blatant robbery were not bad enough, the victim is accused of racism for pointing out that the overwhelming perpetrators of these thefts is in fact, white. But Good White People don’t see it this way.
What does any of this have to do with Viola’s win last night? Oh, everything. A soul on Twitter hopped onto the social network to illustrate the complications in the relationship between the races, the Nameless Man spoke of, as though Providence herself lent a hand in this unmasking.
In the opening remarks of her brilliant acceptance speech, she quotes Harriet Tubman:
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.
The largely white audience, filled with Good White People claps politely…or in some cases, not at all. They don’t get the significance of what she’s talking about. In fact, Nancy Lee Grahn took to Twitter to express umbrage with Viola’s choice of words and ultimately claiming that this should have been an “All Women” moment.
She even went so far as to opine that the Julliard graduate should have let Shonda Rhimes write her speech for her!
As always and never to disappoint, Twitter showed up in the full magnitude of its dragging glory and returned fire with this magnificent response:
— Bend The Knee (@MilftasticJJC) September 21, 2015
In one of her tweets, Nancy Grahn goes on to intimate that Viola has never been the “victim of discrimination”, making her use of Araminta Ross’ address in her acceptance speech insincere.
As you can imagine, it only gets worse from there. I don’t think I’ve seen a Good White Woman flaunt this much cluelessness since Justine Sanco’s tweet about landing in Africa and not being able to catch AIDS because she’s white. Of course Mizz Nancy is all contrition and remorse now, and has duly apologized for any “offense she may have caused” and we are expected to shuffle along like good Negroes…until this happens again at a Kroger check out lane or water cooler near you.
It’s maddening that Good White People can’t see how damaging this behavior is. These are the moments when I wish Wal-Mart sold a tote-along, press my belly Flava Flav doll that sang “You can’t see what I can see!” to emphasis the depth of their willful blindness to the fact that many things are not equal and that every occasion can’t be an All Lives/All Women/All Rainforests time to shine. But none of that matters because this entire discourse was about “me” anyway.
I want to conclude by thanking Viola for using that moment to show the world a different side to Black womanhood. The side that CBS news and Maury and VH-1 and the hoard of other networks make it a point to bury. The side of Black womanhood that is graceful and gracious. That shares her shine with her sisters. That honors the memory of those sisters who have gone before us. And for reminding me of the importance of my craft when she said:
“…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 speech should be dissected and taught in class for its power despite its brevity. I have been tempted many times to stop writing because I didn’t see the point. But if I give up on my craft, I can’t get mad because they keep casting us as maids, or whores, or illiterate junkies…compelling as those stories may be. It’s my duty to write about the many Black women who are lawyers, or homemakers, or secret taekwondo assassins to bring balance to our story. I thank Viola for subtly reminding me of that.