Viola Davis' Emmy Speech Was A Perfect Time To Discuss Racial Inequality

by Niki McGloster

Viola Davis' adamant remarks about racial and gender inequality during her acceptance speech at last night's Emmy Awards are what make her win particularly special.

Achieving the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences statuette for best lead actress in a drama series, the "How to Get Away With Murder" star made history as the first black woman to receive the honor, beating out Taraji P. Henson, Elisabeth Moss, Tatiana Maslany, Claire Danes and Robin Wright.

Using a poignant, paraphrased quote by Harriet Tubman, Davis shed light on a frequently ignored barrier black women face in all industries: a lack of space for us to thrive.

She quoted Tubman saying,

In my dreams and visions, 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.

In her own words, Davis went on to say,

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.

Following her character's infamous wig scene last year, Davis faced ignorant chatter surrounding her looks, which were deemed "less classically beautiful" by the New York Times.

A fury of insults attempted to eclipse the Oscar-nominated actress' praise-worthy role as Annalise Keating. But her character's complexities spanning African American culture and steamy sex scenes helped redefine what it means, as Davis puts it, "to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black."

These beauty issues, which mainstream media uses to demolish our talents, aren't the norm for white women in Hollywood.

As very few dark-skinned, natural-haired women find praise for their outstanding beauty -- let alone 40-somethings who aren't trim like Beyoncé -- Davis' much deserved accomplishment represents a sigh of relief for black women still yearning to be widely recognized for their #BlackGirlMagic.

Davis went on to utilize her two-minute window to not only gracefully celebrate new possibilities for black women, but to also shed light on racial inclusion. On stage, she said she shared her win with "the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, the Gabrielle Unions," and most importantly, all women of color who follow in their footsteps.

If Davis' speech is any indication, until more black feminists garner mainstream recognition, black women will keep striving to level the playing field.

Merely highlighting inequalities doesn't erase racial hurdles. However, paired with memorable wins like Davis', black women help force others to finally pay attention.

So, dear Viola, thank you for being one of the women narrowing the racial gap for so many of us. And for, well, taking us over that line.