Do We Need A "Black Emmy" Awards Show?
More blacks on television deserve recognition.
In the Emmy Awards' 63-year history, how many African Americans have won awards?
The optimist in you probably picked the highest number, which is actually the correct answer. But some number crunching will show you that in the case of black representation at the Emmys, more is still less: 35 black actors and actresses taking home Emmy Awards in 63 years equates blacks representing just 5 percent of winners in the ceremony's storied history.
The 2012 Emmy Awards presentation contributed to that tradition with zero black actors or actress winning the coveted statue. You didn't even need a whole hand to count how many blacks were nominated in major categories this year. Idris Elba was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Mini-series or Movie for his role as John Luther on BBC America’s "Luther." Don Cheadle was nominated for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in Showtime's "House of Lies." Giancarlo Esposito received a nomination for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role on AMC's "Breaking Bad." Maya Rudolph was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy series for her hosting gig on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Rudolph, the only black woman to be nominated in any major category this year, was also the first black woman to ever be nominated in the category for which she received the nod.
So that's four black people in the entire nomination pool for 2012. No Kerry Washington for ABC's "Scandal," or Taraji P. Henson for CBS' "Person Of Interest." No Regina King for TNT's "Southland."
The paltry number of black Emmy winners also means that over the last 63 years some of black people's most beloved television characters never took home a trophy either. No Florida or James Evans. No Cliff or Clair Huxtable. No Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert. None of them.
With numbers that small, you'd think that either black people weren't on television, or that they aren't watching much of it.
The harsh reality is that yes, nonwhite Americans are vastly outnumbered by white Americans on television. African Americans on primetime television are usually one of a few, if not the only black person, on an entire show. And aside from BET's "The Game" and "Let's Stay Together," Vh1's "Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta" and Tyler Perry's shows on TBS, you'll be hard pressed to find an all-black cast ensemble on primetime television. Beyond that, the closest thing to seeing a predominately black cast on television is watching TNT's "Inside the NBA" or ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown."
However, though there aren't many of us on the tube, that doesn't mean we aren't watching TV. A 2012 Nielsen study revealed that blacks watch 40 percent more television than their white counterparts. The same study said that of that demographic, 97 percent said they were "unhappy" with the programming choices they had.
Factoring all of that together, it has to be asked: Do blacks need their own version of the Emmy Awards?
Lack of recognition at the Grammys and American Music Awards led to the creation of the Soul Train Awards and its short-lived spin-off the Lady of Soul Awards. Lack of appreciation across pop culture led to the creation of the BET Awards. The Stellar Awards highlight achievements in gospel music while the Trumpet Awards and NAACP Image Awards recognize excellence in entertainment, civic duty and life in general.
So, maybe it's time we started our own awards show to recognize black achievements on the small screen.
Creating an award show specifically for television will not only recognize black actors and actresses who get overlooked and unrewarded at the Emmys, it may lead to more balance for viewers, and opportunity for actors.
To let Nielsen tell it, the only thing black women want to watch is "Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta." But every Thursday this spring, it seemed that just as many black women were on Twitter talking about Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope on "Scandal." If there was a black Emmy-type award show on the air, it could recognize both ends of the spectrum and show television networks and producers that blacks don't just watch one type of program, and encourage them to make more.
Having a show that focuses on blacks on television could also open the eyes of viewers who may not have considered watching, or even heard of certain shows, before they were nominated. Remember how folks got mad when jazz artist Esperanza Spaulding beat out Justin Beiber and Drake for Best New Artist at the 2011 Grammy Awards, but then actually became fans after they found out who she was? The same could happen for black performances and series in television.
For people who think Nelsan Ellis' Lafayette Reynolds character on "True Blood" is a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor every year, may be delighted in knowing that there are also characters like Alec Hardison played by Aldis Hodge on TNT's "Leverage." Viewers who may only look forward to watching "Basketball Wives," may be just as entertained by celebrity stylist June Ambrose's "Styled By June."
What the primetime Emmy's seem to be failing to realize is that there are black people on television outside of the shows they pay even scant attention to. And on the flip side, black viewers who complain about their representations on television could be more aware of shows outside of sports and reality TV. Since award shows are one of African American's favorite shows to watch, a black version Emmy-type show could fill a gaping void in the world of entertainment.