Recently, the Television Academy and ceremony producers announced that the 2020 Emmys will be officially going virtual, a day after announcing the nominees. However, a much more important conversation materialized out of the nomination results, particularly as it relates to race and culture.
On Tuesday, John Leguizamo (When They See Us), tweeted a link to an L.A. Times article titled, “Emmys 2020: Black Nominees Gain Ground, Latino Representation Still Abysmal” noting, “Why can’t we Latinx have a piece of the pie? We are the largest ethnic group in America and missing as if we didn’t exist!”
As the article referenced, there were no Latinx performers nominated among the lead and supporting primary categories at the Emmys this year, which was a noticeable snub, considering the acclaimed content such as One Day At A Time, On My Block, Vida, Pose and Gentified.
Along with many pointing out that the L.A. Times article was divisive in and of itself, the tweet sparked an ongoing discussion about the anti-Blackness within Latinidad, specifically because these types of calls for inclusion tend to come up as a pushback to the progress the Black community is making. This is an issue for many reasons, one of which is the obvious—Afro-Latinx people exist. So, where do they fit in this divided conversation?
“Well we should start with supporting each other and celebrating ALL [of] our Latinx community,” Selenis Leyva (Orange Is The New Black) responded, alluding to the intra-community issues with race. “Many of us DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT SUPPORT each other. Let’s unite, make noise demand change ! Latinos in Hollywood stop the BS and unite. Yeah I said it.”
Leyva’s OITNB co-star, Dascha Polanco (When They See Us) then responded to her tweet noting, “If Its only us speaking up on it, no one cares. It’s the silence from those that fight for equality but only their equality. Diversity but diverse enough to include thyself [of] that mentality of ‘As long as I’m good; I don’t see a damn thing.’”
For context, both Leyva and Polanco have stated they identify as Afro-Latina. Leguizamo who was born in Bogotá, Columbia, has stated that his paternal grandfather was of Italian and Puerto Rican descent and he ethnically identifies as Latinx.
Polanco has since clarified her statement on Instagram, as her tweet appeared to be a snide comment about the Black American community being unsupportive of other minority groups.
“It was not shading our Black community,” Polanco confirmed. “Blackness is in my DNA, as a Dominican, as an Afro-Latina, as a whole. What I’m referring to is we cannot sit here and say snubbed and write this articles and all these kinds of things when we, ourselves are not doing our due diligence to create the work, the opportunities. We can’t say, let’s claim diversity, but when you’re good, then everything else is OK.” She went on to say that diversity does not only include race, but also pay equity, gender identity and more.
Now, I will preface this by noting that I am not a member of the Latinx community and I do believe it is important for Latinxs, especially Afro-Latinxs to lead this conversation. As the entertainment writer at The Root, my role is to report on what I believe to be a very timely, relevant, important and ongoing discussion. As I’ve realized over the years via social media, this conversation certainly isn’t new—but, it is complicated. As such, I want to—at the very least—make sure we document what happened now to further the conversation.
The difficult discussion touched on a couple of points:
When one pits two cultural identities against each other in what is typically described as “Oppression Olympics,” it neglects to include those who live within the intersections or those who live with multi-layered identities. Centering the conversation as, “Latinx vs. Black” inherently ignores Afro-Latinx people. Specifically, in this very conversation about the Emmys snubs, some noticed that the examples given as a solution were shows such as One Day At A Time, but not shows featuring Afro-Latinx characters such as Pose (e.g., co-stars Indya Moore and MJ Rodriguez).
Further, in a very informative episode of Unpack That, The Root Video Producer Felice León broke down the complexities in which some Black and Indigenous Millennials have rejected identifying with Latinidad, rather focusing on race instead of ethnic descriptors.
Notably, many in the Black community called out the stark contrast, noting that it is quite telling that this type of pushback uniquely reveals itself when Black Americans are progressing in some form. Additionally, there’s the grievance that the same people who call out Black people to support their missions become crickets when it comes to our specific issues.
Nadia Hallgren (who is Afro-Latinx), the director of Michelle Obama’s Netflix documentary, Becoming, is among the nominees. The doc was nominated under the Outstanding Documentary or Non-Fiction Special, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Non-Fiction Program, Outstanding Cinematography for a Non-Fiction Program and Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score) categories.
Plus, it was just last year that Jharrel Jerome (who is Afro-Latinx) won the 2019 Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Emmy for his stirring performance as Korey Wise in When They See Us.
While these nominations and wins aren’t nearly enough, it is noteworthy that non-Black Latinxs who are critical of the lack of representation in major award shows have been criticized for not supporting Latinx representation that does not look like them.
That said, along with the above-referenced educational links provided, Blactina Media founder Nadia Simone created a directory for Afro-Latinx and Caribbean people who work in film and TV.
Though this discussion is complex, it isn’t simply “black and white.” There are layers of grey, however, when it comes to race, we really could break this down to Black vs. white representation. As many have touched on before, there can be white Latinx people as well as Black Latinx people.
As Assistant Professor Dr. Blanca E. Vega noted, white supremacy creates this type of division and “makes us fight for crumbs” and that this argument essentially takes the minuscule amount of crumbs that Black people are finally getting.
“If your racial justice analysis hinges on comparing your community’s visibility or access to the crumbs of resources that Black folks WORKED FOR for decades, or you’re constantly doing a comparative analysis on what Black folks “get”, it’s not racial justice, it’s anti-Blackness,” longtime organizer and advocate Alicia Sanchez Gill tweeted on Wednesday.
Overall, the path to racial justice will never be paved with white supremacist asphalt. Entertainment Weekly news writer Rosy Cordero summed it up perfectly noting, “While the topic is complicated, the easy answer to the problem is that there needs to be more representation across the board.”