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raceAhead: Diversity at the Emmy Awards

September 18, 2018, 6:08 PM UTC

Last night’s Primetime Emmy Awards brought more jokes about diversity than actual diversity.

While the show bragged about their nominee talent pool – a record 36 non-white actors were nominated this year, a 20% increase over 2017 – the show’s opening number was a clever musical jab at the notion that the industry had done anything more than just scratch the surface of the problem.

We Solved It!” featured Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson, Tituss Burgess, Kristen Bell, Sterling K. Brown, RuPaul, Andy Samberg, Ricky Martin, John Legend and, wait for it… the “One of Each” dance troupe.

From the stage, Thompson briefly threw to Sandra Oh in the audience, acknowledging her as the first Asian woman ever to be nominated for a lead actress Emmy. “It’s an honor just to be Asian,” she quipped from her seat. Thompson beamed. “You see? There was none. Now there’s one,” he said. “And so,” said McKinnon, “we’re done!”

She lost. Oh well.

One pre-recorded sketch featuring Emmy co-host Michael Che kept the theme alive.

“As a black comedian, for so many years our TV legends and heroes have gone unrecognized,” Che said. “So this year as host, I took it upon myself to finally right some of those wrongs. I present: the Reparation Emmys.”

The awards honored Marla Gibbs, who played Florence, the “wise-cracking maid” on The Jeffersons; Jimmie Walker from Good Times, Kadeem Hardison, who played Dwayne Wayne on the ground-breaking A Different World; Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel on Family Matters, Tichina Arnold from Martin and Everybody Hates Chris, and John Witherspoon, a long time familiar face on television, perhaps best known for his work on The Wayan Bros.

It was unexpectedly poignant to see them again – particularly Gibbs, who had been nominated for an Emmy five times and never won. It was also impossible not to think about the impact some might have had if they’d been lauded for their work.

For all the joking about diversity, few of the nominees of color won last night. But, despite that fact that the mission is still not accomplished, at least they were in the room and honored. (To be Asian, etc.)

There were plenty of well-deserved wins, including an important nod to tech: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel became the first streaming show to win an Emmy. The brilliant Regina King also won for Seven Seconds and as did Thandie Newton for Westworld. Other bright spots included Betty White’s lovely tribute to her fans, a surprise marriage proposal, and the comic genius of presenter Hannah Gadsby, who is still enjoying the accolades and outrage from her Netflix special, Nanette.

She summed up the American zeitgeist in a minute and a half.

I mean, for somebody like me — a nobody, from nowhere — gets this sweet gig, free suit, new boots, just ’cause I don’t like men? That’s a joke, of course. Just jokes, fellas, calm down,” she said. “Hashtag: NotAllMenButALotOfEm. No, it is just jokes, but what are jokes these days? We don’t know. Nobody knows what jokes are. Especially not men! Am I right, fellas? That’s why I’m presenting alone.”

Right? What are jokes these days? Really, nobody knows. Someone, cue the dancers.


On Point

How did people die in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria?It's a complicated question, but a new investigation from Quartz, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Associated Press gets us closer to an answer. The team has documented 487 known deaths and their causes from September 20 onward, in a searchable database in English and Spanish. It is deeply painful to read. "Oct 3: Luis Manuel Vázquez Rodríguez is found dead on the floor of his bathroom. The 60-year-old diabetic had been in fine health, says his daughter, but struggled to find insulin after Maria. 'Everything was chaos. There was no access to anything, to medicine,' she recalls. 'Going to the pharmacy meant kilometers-long lines.'"Quartz

Who is the highest paid robotics engineer in the world?
According to this piece, it’s Silas Adekunle, a 26-year-old Nigerian-born engineer, entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Reach Robotics, which builds gaming robots. His is a completely non-dramatic story of school achievement, hard work, aptitude and excellence. His family relocated to the UK when he was a teenager, he participated in robotics programs in high school and graduated with a degree in robotics from the University of the West of England. His inventions got him venture funding, and he released MekaMon, the world’s first gaming robot in 2017. Initial sales generated $7.5 million; they’re now being sold in Apple stores. Click through to enjoy the MekaMon trailer, and to pretend this exemplary young man is your cousin.
Face 2 Face Africa

Blue’s Clues gets a new host
The beloved children’s show is getting a second life on Nickelodeon, this time with Broadway actor Joshua Dela Cruz at the helm. The basic format appears to be the same, and includes Blue, a cartoon dog who leaves pawprints on “clues” for pre-schoolers to figure out together. Until recently, Dela Cruz was mostly known for his stage roles, which included a turn as an understudy for Aladdin. But fellow Filipino Americans and Asian Americans are rejoicing that a host has been picked just for his clear talent, and not there to do double duty because of race. Click below from some reaction from his fans. Here he is talking about getting the gig and growing up with Blue’s Clues.
Pop Inquirer

The Duchess of Sussex dons an apron and a pen for an important cause
In her first solo project, the former Meghan Markle is collaborating on a special cookbook which aims to raise funds and awareness for the community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, in West London in 2017. Markle has made “quiet visits” to the Hubb Community Kitchen, a communal kitchen made available by the Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, to allow families displaced by the fire and living without facilities to gather, heal, and cook together to make fresh food for their families and neighbors. The cookbook features 50 recipes from women affected by the fire and hopes to raise enough funds to keep the kitchen open daily, and the Duchess has written an extensive forward. The launch party will be at Kensington Palace this week; "hubb"is translated to "love" in Arabic. She seems nice.


The Woke Leader

Rebecca Traister’s well-timed book on female anger is almost here
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Angerwill drop on October 2, but this excerpt from The Cut makes it clear that the time is clearly now. She covers the story of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh in detail but provides important context: The community of women, angry women, who have been dressing has handmaids, sending wire hangers to lawmakers and becoming an intractable and vocal force. “With Ford’s story came the explicit acknowledgment of what all those handmaids and demonstrators had been working to convey for weeks: that this fight has been against an administration with virtually no regard for women, for their rights, or for the integrity of their bodies, either in the public or private sense.” Come for the political drama, stay for the rage.
The Cut

Is it TimesUp for the medical profession?
If you’re not following Dr. Esther Choo on Twitter, you should. In addition to being a font of information on inclusion and public health, the ER doc and researcher also co-wrote this opinion piece on the still unaddressed harassment of women working in academic sciences, engineering, and medicine. The findings of a recent survey show that half of all female medical students experience sexual harassment. “If there is anything the report makes clear, however, it is that medicine is ill-prepared to take meaningful steps toward actually ending harassment,” they write. For one thing, power is power: Academics who abuse for years without punishment are often bringing the research funding into their institutions. Also, it’s the system. “The narrative that sexual harassment occurs because of the psychopathology of a single person overlooks the critical role of institutional permissiveness, fosters a sense of futility,” they say.

How American racism inspired Hitler
This is not hyperbole, nor is it a fusty historical inquiry. Alex Ross walks us through the historical interpretations of the rise of Hitler, and how they’ve changed with time and reflection.  While the first post-war biography of Hitler painted him as an opportunist, later theories indicted Germany specifically; the Sonderweg thesis of the 1960s and ‘70s posited that Germany had been on a “special path” and had failed to develop along democratic lines, like other Western nations. But more recent books place Hitler’s rise into a broader context, noting that the dictator studied American culture and praised its attempt to link citizenship to racial purity by “excluding certain races from naturalization.” What’s chilling about this lengthy piece is the degree to which it explains how a charismatic figure can deepen fissures that clearly exist in society. “What is worth pondering is how a demagogue of Hitler’s malign skill might more effectively exploit flaws in American democracy,” he writes. 
New Yorker


May we ask if Hitler’s attitude may be somewhat governed by the fact that too many Jews, at least in Germany, are radical, too many are communists? May that have any bearing on the situation? There must be some reason other than race or creed—just what is that reason? It is always well to try to understand.
John Ray Ewer, correspondent, The Christian Century