I'm Rooting For Everybody Black
On September 17th, social media was abuzz. The Emmys had finally returned and my Twitter timeline was flooded with critiques on various TV shows, red carpet looks, and most importantly, live interviews. In the one that stuck with me the most, a female correspondent asked our favorite ‘Awkward Black Girl’, Issa Rae Diop, who she was rooting for that Sunday night. “I’m rooting for, um, everybody black. I am,” she stated with a shrug and a chuckle. Honest, hilarious, and to the point. Due to the lack of a television in my dorm room and my adamant refusal to walk to a lounge down the hall, I didn’t actually watch the awards show. However, Issa aptly summed up my sentiments that night, especially because I knew that Lena Waithe and Donald Glover were on the verge of making history.
While ‘the times have changed’, we’re still using phrases such as “the first black…” at award shows. In 2017, Donald Glover was the first African-American to win the award for best directing for a comedy series, while Lena Waithe became the first African-American female to win best writing for a comedy series. Now the issue is not with commenting on one’s blackness or the fact that Waithe is a queer black woman; if we were to leave out those attributes, that ultimately dismisses the struggles and obstacles one had to go through to get to where they are Instead, it is an issue of progress and pigeonholing.
This is a telltale sign that despite the strides society has made, black and brown visibility in the entertainment industry has been limited. Recently, Netflix publicized a media campaign called “#TheFirstTimeISawMe,” emphasizing the importance of representation across our screens. However, when minorities do make brief appearances on TV, we’re portrayed as monoliths: the sassy Black woman, the spicy Latina, the Indian cab driver, etc. Because of the talent and ingenuity of Glover and Waithe, they were able to shatter those stereotypes. Glover’s Atlanta tells the story of the young Earnest Marks (played by Donald himself) who leaves Princeton and returns to Stone Mountain, Georgia to take care of his budding, complicated family and help his cousin Paper Boi launch a career in the rap game. In Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, Lena Waithe plays Denise, Dev’s childhood friend who tags along in his adventures navigating adulthood. Her most poignant appearance in the show was during season 2 in the episode titled “Thanksgiving,” where her character grapples with coming out to her family about her sexuality.
Frequently, when young black audiences see people like them being commended on a stage, it’s for a musical or athletic achievement. While those fields are important, it’s incredibly limiting for African-American youth to think that their worth and talents are only in those areas. We have so much more to give. At the core of humor and comedy lies raw intellect, and the ability to make light of struggles and situations that we as people of color go through only propels us forward. Furthermore, humor can communicate the intersectionality of various identities and how multi-faceted we as individuals and as a community truly are. Comedy brings us and those around us together, creating a microcosm of empathy that helps us better understand one another. After all, laughter is the best medicine.