Television in America is relatively young. The first electronic television set was sold in 1939. Nearly 30 years later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. However, these two milestones of progression did not coincide. Women of color were still given minimal roles on television until the 1970's when black sitcoms like Good Times and the Jeffersons became popular. Until now, that has been the norm: black women on TV are limited to bit parts, best friends and sassy servants. Yet, for the past few years there has been an influx of black women in leading roles and the sisterhood is rejoicing.
For me as a black woman, this new era of television is more than exciting; it's historic. It's such a thrill to see ourselves represented on screen as we are in real life. We are intelligent. We have careers. We love. We hate. We are mothers. We are wives. We are more dynamic than quirky one-liners and occasional sage advice. To see Viola Davis be the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series was truly a win for women of color all over America.
This is why we sisters are glued to our TVs and dedicated to our DVRs because we are proud. When we see Annalise Keating (Davis; How to Get Away With Murder) dominating a courtroom, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington; Scandal) effortlessly "handling" D.C., Cookie (Taraji P. Henson; Empire) rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Michonne (Danai Gurira; The Walking Dead) swinging a katana and Mary Jane Paul (Gabrielle Union; Being Mary Jane) so humanly juggling her life and career we are giddy knowing our daughters will grow up knowing that women of color on TV is normal and not novelty.
Davis said it best last night at the Emmy's, "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity." Perhaps now, in the 21st century, the door to that opportunity has finally been unlocked.