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michael che’s ‘reparations emmys’ are a big mood

September 18, 2018
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Michael Che and some white guy dating Scarlett Johanson just hosted the 70th Emmy Awards and they were… eh. The hosting was stunted but the jokes did provide moments of genius like Michael Che calling The Handmaid’s Tale “Roots for white women.” The truly gratifying part of the evening was Che’s segment titled “Reparation Emmys”, where the SNL host visits iconic figures in Black television history that were not awarded with Emmys. (Because white people just discovered Black television…I’m guessing.)

Che hands out Reparations Emmys to classic TV actors like Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons), Jimmy Walker (Good Times), Kadeem Hardison (A Different World), Jaleel White (Family Matters) and Tichina Arnold (Martin and Everybody Hates Chris), concluding the segment with a lifetime achievement award to comedy great John Witherspoon. Each character of course induces their own distinct bout of nostalgia, as all have played such integral roles in the lives of the Black community and its culture.

In the diversity conversations calcified by the 2015 emergence of #OscarsSoWhite, it’s odd that the Emmy’s don’t find nearly as much criticism considering it too is sea of white faces. This current TV moment feels almost surreal, with shows like Black-ish, Insecure and Atlanta making waves, but great Black shows have passed in and out of the rerun cycle without getting their just-do. It is the world where six seasons of Living Single turned into 10 seasons of Friends, so we have to wonder whether the steady shift we’re witnessing is a moment or a movement.

The industry’s John Witherspoons and Tichina Arnolds are true artists, consistently delivering epic performances without recognition. The Black community supports and uplifts them; but what’s the point of bodies like the Television Academy if spectacular performances aren’t given the praise they deserve. Arnold isn’t a good actress for a Black TV show—she is a brilliant actress period.

That is what Che’s “Reparations Emmys” are about: acknowledging a real one when you see one.