Brunson’s win was the second for a Black actress in the category, and the first in 42 years (since Isabel Sanford for The Jeffersons
). Let that sink in. Quinta Brunson, in the year 2024, is only the second Black actress ever
to win the Emmy for lead actress in a comedy, and the first
in over 40 years. For over 40 years, the Emmys haven’t rewarded a single Black woman in this category. Think of the funniest person you know; it’s a Black woman, isn’t it? Imagine not acknowledging Black women leads in comedy for over 40 years. Issa Rae
is not an Emmy winner. Tracee Ellis Ross
has never won this category. Brunson absolutely deserved to stand on that stage to tearfully accept her award, but when these stats are trotted out as wins for “diversity”, I think we should also point out that they aren’t just fun anecdotes to use in a trivia game. They’re glaring reminders of the inequity that permeates through the industry. As I said when I wrote about Beyoncé and Davis, “celebrating these superficial accolades without critique does a disservice to the structural issues that are still entrenched in these organisations — and those issues are worse for Black women.” The optimistic read of the Emmys’ historic night would be that it’s just the beginning, and from now on, Black women will continue to get their due. I bet they said the same 42 years ago. There have only been three Black women to win Edebiri’s category, Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy, and the last winner was Sheryl Lee Ralph in 2022. Two in a row. That’s a good sign, right? I hope so, but if history is any indication, progress at the Emmys isn’t linear. Between Lee Ralph and her predecessor Jackée Harry, there were 35 years. Last night, five of the 12 acting Emmys went to actors of colour, tying a record set in 1991 when Lynn Whitfield, Madge Sinclair, Ruby Dee, and James Earl Jones (he won two) all won their categories, according to The Hollywood Reporter
. When something happens every 30 years, it’s not a signal of change, it’s an anomaly. Black folks winning awards they deserve shouldn’t be as rare as a celestial event.