As you may have heard, the 2017 Emmy Awards made history in terms of diversity. The reason for the buzz was because of the number of awards won by people of diverse color, descent, and ethnicity. Not only were these winners the first ever to win their respective awards as people of color, but also because many of them represent the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, while myself and many others were excited to see this change, there is still controversy that the diversity was just for show.
Riz Ahmed became the first Asian male to win an Emmy for acting, Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing, and Stephen Glover was the first black male to win an Emmy for comedy directing. They accepted their awards with grace, dignity, and pride in the fact that
they were the ones to change the traditional theme of the Emmys and its winners. So, why the controversy?
In his Wired Magazine article, Jason Parham stated, “Their much-deserved victories highlight an ugly imbalance in the industry, and one that has persisted for some time: there simply aren’t enough opportunities—as creators, as actors, as writers, as decision-makers—given to people of color, women, and queer individuals.”
After analyzing this article, I began to understand Parham’s take on this subject a little more. I disagree with him when he says that the diversity was all a publicity stunt. I believe that these actors, writers, directors, etc., deserved these awards and won them based solely off their talents, not because the Emmys wanted to be considered a diverse award show. What I do agree with though, is that because of these awards won by these people, the show was based around the idea of being culturally sensitive, diverse, and accepting – but that seemed to be it. The show preached equality, anti-hate, and anti-racism while using the winners to prove themselves and take a stance.
To get better insight on cultural diversity, I interviewed Michele Steckel, the Executive Director of the Milestones Project, an organization that strives to show the commonalities in people around the world, not the differences. This organization is also known to have inspired schools to teach multicultural awareness. As a photographer for Milestones, Michele has immersed herself within 55 different countries and cultures. After her travels, she returned to America with her photographs to show the commonalities between people. I asked her if she thinks racism and inequality are as bad in the countries she has visited as they seem to be here. She answered with a simple, “Yes.” She said, “In South Africa, the White South Africans still have a problem with getting together with the Black South Africans.” She also said, “the sad truth is that racism and inequality are prominent in other countries based on color, status, and monetarily where you are.”
I also interviewed Shirley D. Trees, the Director of Elementary Education for Littleton Public Schools in Colorado. I interviewed her because she conducted an interview with Michele Steckel about the Milestones Project that relates perfectly to this topic. She said that Milestones “creates a more peaceful world by encouraging the recognition that beneath our beliefs or skin color we are all the same.” I resonated with this quote the most because of its similarity to Lena Waithe’s acceptance speech, where she explained that each individual has their own superpowers, and that is what makes us all different.
Influential people such as these Emmy award-winners, Michele Steckel, and Shirley D. Trees are the reason that the world can maintain peace, love, and equality even with so much hate, inequality, and judgment. After analyzing the Emmys and whether the diversity was simply just for show, I think it is safe to say that people are starting to recognize that there needs to be change in the world, and the Emmys was a good place to start.