Miscellaneous-daytime-drama actress Nancy Lee Grahn wants the world to know that the Emmys are no place to discuss the marginalization of black actresses in Hollywood, because all women are discriminated against, and "dramatic" race talk distracts from the bigger picture.
As previously reported by The Root, Grahn made these ridiculously racist statements on Twitter in the wake of Viola Davis' historic win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Annalise Keating on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder. Davis became the first black actress to win the award and, in a powerful acceptance speech, paid homage to other black leading ladies paving the way, while also tackling the institutionalized racism that shapes and shades Hollywood.
"The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity," Davis said. "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."
Minutes after the speech, Grahn cried the whitest tears imaginable, ripped Davis' speech to shreds and attempted to center her whiteness in one of the blackest moments in Emmy history:
"Im a [f—king] actress for 40 yrs. None of us get respect or opportunity we deserve," Grahn wrote in a now-deleted tweet. "Emmys not venue 4 racial opportunity. ALL women belittled."
The subsequent flurry of tweets weren't any better, with Grahn claiming that Davis had never been discriminated against and that she wished she had access to some of the same opportunities.
Yes, this really happened.
Grahn eventually offered a half-assed nonapology, and when it wasn't immediately accepted, she propped herself up as a victim of an "ambush" by black people who were too "mean" to realize that she was sincere. After all, she's "spent [her] life advocating 4 equal rights 4 all human beings." In her liberal white world, any racial blindspots she has should be excused. It wasn't long before her self-imposed period of flimsy contrition disintegrated under the weight of black Twitter's pushback, and Grahn tweeted that she had been "betrayed by people [she] would have marched for."
Here's the thing: Grahn apologized for being misunderstood, not for the racist nature of her tweets. Apparently, mocking Davis' ceiling-shattering win and her road to get there was not the soap actress's intent, though all tweets point to the contrary. She just didn't want viewers to forget about the poor, marginalized white women who also have it rough, and Davis' one-minute speech threatened to minimize their suffering.
See how erasure works, how centering whiteness comes as natural to people like Grahn as breathing? It is instinctive.
Not once did she acknowledge that she was wrong and that black actresses have never had an advantage over white actresses. Never. She didn't apologize for diminishing the fact that roles for women of color in notoriously white Hollywood are scarce. Instead, she played the tiniest violin imaginable because Shonda Rhimes hasn't written a plum role for her, doubled down on her resentment that Davis dared to place her win in the turbulent historical context it deserves and repeatedly talked about how she's been "there for" black people for at least three decades.
Let's be clear: Any white person who attempts to use so-called ally-ship as a get-out-of-racism-free card is one that can't be trusted, and Grahn's defensiveness is evidence that the insidiousness of liberal racism is just as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan-style bigotry in which many conservatives wallow.
That is just the type of frail ally-ship that black people don't need. The kind of ally-ship that folds into bitterness and anger at the slightest challenge. The kind of ally-ship that, when given the opportunity, will silence our voices instead of amplify them. The kind of ally-ship that prefers our gratitude to our equality.
In an industry that pathologizes, reduces and co-opts blackness at every turn, especially black womanhood, Grahn attempted to infiltrate a historic moment to make it all about her and felt completely justified in doing so. Just as Bernie Sanders' #WeStandTogether was intended to drown out calls of #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName, Grahn's insistence that all women are discriminated against equally in Hollywood is a misrepresentation and simplification of the truth.
Davis was able to call out the majority of leading black actresses by name in under 30 seconds. But somehow, in Grahn's mind, that is what's discriminatory, not that there are so few black actresses' names to call in the first place.
Her warped Miss Ann logic would be astounding if it weren't so commonplace among so-called progressive white women who demand to be viewed as authorities on race while denying that they are the co-authors of racism. It is this same logic that enables them to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment as a victory for all women even though most black women still didn't have the right to vote.
It is also this logic that demands all women be up in arms about the dozens of white women allegedly raped by Bill Cosby while too many white women have remained silent about the 13 black women allegedly raped by Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw.
This is the bigger picture that Grahn is either unwilling or unable to see: the persistent and pervasive devaluation of black women in a world that counts both our race and gender as strikes against us, while white women glance down from the perches that white patriarchy built to tell us that their blues are just like ours.
Though Grahn tweeted that she felt betrayed, what she should feel is indicted for her complicity in a system that diminishes the lived experiences of black women and the obstacles that had to be overcome for them to even be alive, safe, healthy and present at the Emmys, let alone taking center stage.
And if that's just too much for her to comprehend, as her tweets suggest, I'll simplify:
Ms. Grahn, focus on your own lackluster career rather than on whom and what Viola Davis chooses to address and where she chooses to address it. It would be unfortunate for you if your racist tweets remain the one performance for which you are best-known.