Quinta Brunson’s Emmys win on Sunday night should have been remembered for being a historic moment for Black women. By receiving the award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, the star and creator of Abbott Elementary became the second Black woman to do so. However, Jimmy Kimmel’s bit to pretend to lay lifeless on the stage near the podium as Brunson made her speech overshadowed the honor.
Black women know all about Brunson’s grace and how in the face of indignity from white people we are forced to keep our composure. And quite frankly at these televised awards shows, we aren’t afforded the Taylor Swift treatment.
Kimmel presented Brunson’s category alongside Will Arnett, who wound up dragging the comedian offstage. He explained that Kimmel “got into the skinny margaritas” at the theater’s bar after losing in a category earlier in the night. The comedian’s actions meant that Brunson had to literally walk over a white man’s body to accept her well-deserved win.
“I know Jimmy Kimmel, and I don’t know, I felt like the bit didn’t bother me that much. I don’t know what the internet thinks… I know him… Jimmy gave me my first big late-night spot and was one of the first people to see Abbott,” Brunson explained to press backstage.
“He Instagram messaged me that he saw this comedy and thought it was one of the greatest comedies of all time and he was so excited it was going to be on ABC. So in that moment I think I was just really happy that it was Jimmy up there. I kind of consider him one of the comedy godfathers… Tomorrow maybe I’ll be mad at him. I’m going to be on his show on Wednesday, so I might punch him in the face. I don’t know what happens,” Brunson remarked.
However, there was nothing comedic about Kimmel did. Sheryl Lee Ralph, who became the second Black woman that night to win Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her work role on Abbott Elementary, was more vocal about her disdain Wednesday during a virtual panel of the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour.
“I was absolutely confused. I didn’t know what was going on. I was like, ‘I wish that man would just get up off of the ground.’ And then I realized it was Jimmy Kimmel, and I was like, ‘Ooh, the disrespect, Jimmy!’ But that’s just me.” Brunson appeared on Kimmel’s show last night where he barely apologized.
“People got upset and said I stole your moment,” Kimmel told Brunson on the show. “Maybe I did and I’m very sorry if I did do that.” He eventually corrected himself. “I’m sorry I did do that actually and also the last thing I would ever want to do is upset you because I think so much of you. I hope you know that.”Ultimately, the late night talk show host doubled down in his privilege. “I was dumb, and I’ve got news: It’s gonna happen again.”
We saw how horribly Hattie McDaniel, the first Black person to win an Oscar 1940, was treated when she won for her role as an enslaved maid in “Gone With the Wind.” Not only was she not allowed to sit with the white cast members of the film, she accepted the award in a segregated ‘no Blacks’ hotel in Los Angeles. The reaction to this historic achievement wasn’t more inclusion but infamous exclusion.
In 2015, the #Oscarssowhite called out the notorious lack of diversity in Hollywood. Statistically speaking, Black actresses have received more Emmys than Oscars. Recipients range from Gail Fisher, the first Black woman to ever win an Emmy, to Cicely Tyson, Queen Latifah, Halle Berry, Viola Davis, Alfre Woodard and Ava Duvernay. However, that doesn’t stop white folks from trying to humble us in these spaces.
We saw how Beyoncé sat graciously and nodded when Adele acknowledged that Lemonade deserved to win Record of the Year at the 2017 Grammy Awards. The same thing happened at last year’s Grammys where Billie Eilish stated Megan Thee Stallion should have won Record of the Year over her. Despite these white women acknowledging their privilege and how the game is rigged against us, they still willingly participate in it as well as benefit from it.
In March, Jane Campion took time out of her Critics’ Choice Awards show win for Best Director in March to disparage Serena Williams—something that only a white person could get away with. Her behavior also reinforces this discriminatory environment. Quinta Brunson may have been unbothered by Kimmel and decided to focus on her wins (the new season of Abbott Elementary premieres next week). However, in a culture where whiteness reigns supreme, she doesn’t really have a choice.