Now that the holidays are over we have officially entered award season. What sets the NAACP Image awards apart is that its express purpose is to celebrate the work of bodies of color. While there have been POC to win Emmy’s and Grammys, these events have historically recognized the achievement of White artists.
Hattie McDaniel won for best supporting actress of the roll of Mammy in 1939’s Gone With the Wind. A Black woman would not win again until 2001 until Halle Berry picked up an Oscar for best actress for her role in Monsters Ball. I’ll do the math for you…62 years in between Black women being recognized.
Black men have fared a little better than Black women. In 1963 Sidney Poitier became the first African-American male to win an Oscar. He won Best Actor for Lilies of the Field. Louis Gossett, Jr. was the first African-American male to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He won for An Officer and a Gentleman in 1982. There was only a nineteen year gap between Poitier and Louis Gosset, Jr. The first awards were given out in 1927 and that means it took 36 years for the first Black man to get an award. It took another seven years for another Black man to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; it would be Denzel Washington winning that honour. Finally, in 2001 Washington would become the second Black man to ever win an Oscar for best actor for his work in Training day. It only only took thirty-eight years between Poitier and Washington for the academy to decide to award another Black man in the category of best actor. Isn’t Hollywood liberal?
There have been other award shows that have been a little more friendly to African Americans, however; in general, the awards are few and far between. This is why the NAACP awards are of particular importance. If we do not support each other and celebrate our hard work, Whiteness has made it more than clear that is is quite willing to not only deny is the opportunity to shine but it will fail to acknowledge when we turn these small roles into something spectacular.
The homepage for the NAACP Awards states:
The NAACP Image Awards is the nation's premier event celebrating the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts (motion picture, television, recording, and literature), as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavours.
If it is the goal of the NAACP Awards to acknowledge the work of people of color, could someone please explain the following?
Anderson Cooper was not the only White person nominated for an award but how can it possibly be explained when on CNN alone there is Solidad O’Brien, Donna Brazile, Roland Martin, Don Lemon and T.J. Holmes? Really, Anderson freaking Cooper? Now don’t get me wrong, I have love for Anderson but if we are talking about fighting privilege, how in the world does it make sense to nominate Anderson? The man was born into the Vanderbilt family.
I understood when I saw the reality television category:
Clearly, there were not many people of color to nominate but there is simply no excuse in the category of Outstanding News/Information to overlook the hard work that news casters of color are doing. Anderson Coopers’ nomination is a slap in the face to all of the POC who work in the news industry that don’t get recognized. If the producers of this award wish to open it up to all races, I have no problem with it, however it is unconscionable to claim that this award is to help challenge racism and then nominate one of the most privileged people on television today.