Viola Davis’ Emmy for Best Actress

22 Sep

Congratulations Viola!

I shake my head that this is the FIRST time a woman of colour has received this award. I want to ask, what year is this?

But Viola’s speech says it all – the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. And those opportunities, sadly, have been (still are) few and far between. We could insert a number of identities into that sentence and it would also be true.

Here is a clip of her speech from the Guardian.
What I find interesting is the part that is missing – the Harriet Tubman quote that she used at the very beginning of her speech. The beginning!!  It’s what contextualizes the entire speech, and it’s not here on a major media outlet! Perhaps because it shows the inequity that still exists along colour lines in North America (and elsewhere). And it gives us pause to think about the other inequities that also continue to exist. I notice that she has gotten some heat for it….

Here is the Harriet Tubman quote that Viola started with, if you can’t find it:

“In my mind, i see a line. And over that line I see green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white women with their arms outstretched to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.”

Powerful, right?

There are still many lines for people to cross: people of colour, women, women of colour, people with disabilities, visible minorities, LGBT folks, the list goes on….. And Viola is right, opportunity is a HUGE reason for not getting to the other side.

I agree. And I would suggest that in order for us to see that lack of opportunity, we have to acknowledge that the line exists, that the playing fields haven’t (and still are not) level, and start to see more:
– see more in people
– see where the gaps are in opportunity, why they are there and how we consciously and unconsciously support them
– and see what we can do to get rid of those gaps so that opportunity once again becomes a word that all people can grasp, rather than it being a word that some people create for others.

Seeing that line would start, in this case, with including the quote in the clip for all to see and hear.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, workshop facilitator, author, consultant on issues of diversity and inclusion.

Radio Host, Creating Families Radio on


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