Last night, Sterling K. Brown made history at the Screen Actors Guild Awards by becoming the first black man to win the award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series. If that sounds familiar, it’s because two weeks ago, Brown became the first black man to win the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama. Brown’s awards—for his performance in This Is Us—are nothing short of well-deserved, but oh my god, how have these awards never gone to black actors before? How is this happening for the first time!? (Spoiler: racism.)
Last year, Brown also became the first black man to win an acting Emmy in 19 years—one of only four to win in the award’s over 60-year history. No black men have ever won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, so I guess we’ll have to wait for Sterling K. Brown to win that award too! It’s insane that in 2018, Hollywood is still recognizing the work of black actors for the very first time, as if black talent and stories just started existing last year. These institutions are decades old; there’s no excuse.
And it’s not like things are that much better for black women. Only one black actress has won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Isabel Sanford in 1981! Viola Davis is the first and only black woman to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama! Whoopi Goldberg is the only actress to have won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama—ever! The first and only black woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television was Gail Fisher in 1971! 1971!!! (We can’t get into the lack of wins for people of color more broadly—America Fererra is the only Latina to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy!—or we’d be here literally all day.)
There’s also an enormous dearth of acknowledgment of people of color behind the scenes, where POC cinematographers, writers, and directors are almost entirely unrecognized.
But anyway, another hearty congratulations to Sterling K. Brown, the first black man to act according to Hollywood!