Black fans of TV were likely still rejoicing Monday morning following the 69th Emmy Awards, which featured a couple of African-American nominees making history Sunday night. But even more probable were the chances that those same fans had a Tom Cruise “Oprah couch” moment when they heard Issa Rae confidently tell a pre-show interviewer that she wanted “everybody Black” nominated for an Emmy to win.
Even though Rae and her hit HBO comedy “Insecure” were snubbed from any of the relevant nominations, her comment ignited a Twitter firestorm with many users branding the show’s star, writer and producer as a racist.
Of course, there was one problem with that argument: Black people can’t be racist.
So-called reverse racism may as well be fake news, as we all saw last week when Jemele Hill accurately attributed America’s 45th presidency to “white supremacy.” Even if Hill was trying to be racist, her words were soon validated by none other than the White House, which called for her — a civilian who exercised her First Amendment rights to free speech — to be fired. It was later reported that ESPN did try [unsuccessfully] to remove her from her SportsCenter show. That, folks, is the epitome of racism.
Still don’t get it? Let’s put it another way:
Prejudice and bias are oftentimes conveniently confused with racism. Rae’s was certainly biased, though – she simply expressed hopeful favoritism that Black nominees be rewarded for their work on-screen, something that has historically evaded people of color on any acting level.
But to suggest the comment was prejudiced – “an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics – is a stretch. Even worse, to reduce racism to nothing but favoritism is just plain ignorant.
Ironically, it’s also racist.
To paraphrase Merriam Webster, racism is defined as the belief that “racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
Clearly that’s not at all what Rae was trying to accomplish with her quip Sunday night.