On Zendaya’s White Supr-Emmy “Victory”


In 2015, a year after debuting in her first starring role in Peter Norwalk’s primetime series How to Get Away with Murder, Viola Davis because the first black woman to win an Emmy Award for a lead actress in a Drama. The night was an emotional night for many who saw a black woman donning her natural hair to accept an award for a leading role, roles that traditionally typically overlook the authentically black aesthetic. Despite how beautiful Viola Davis looked (and is) the reality is she was only deemed worthy of celebration and attention as the product of the white imaginary. As Annalise Keating, the tough but brilliant attorney who renders the evil eye with a distinct mastery, Keating personifies the ideal shell or existence for her gay, white male conception.

Thus, Davis’s victory was one for Peter Norwalk, that his writing could create a noteworthy black character that keeps the black woman espoused to hypersexuality and humiliation veiled as sacrifices for the role. Yes, I am referencing the moment where Davis removed her wig and makeup on prime time television to deliver the episode’s closing line. This moment, framed as a testament to Davis’s dedication and elucidating her “talent,” substantiated claims that black female beauty is one of construction to satiate the frail aesthetical privilege encompassed by white female viewership.

Davis’s now encompasses a maternal role to the White Supr-emmy’s an award show established to celebrate feats in the racist white media. The only blacks celebrated are those who afford the white supremo’s diversity in rendering their deed.

As the foremother to this white supremacist (dis) honor, Davis proves synonymous with what Alice Walker called the black-black woman who deboarded the slave ships in chains, those who would physically give birth to the master’s hegemonic heirs. Zendaya illuminates this genetically diluted social reproduction of systemic terror as cast onto the African in America.

Zendaya’s victory paired with the record number of black victories last night set social media ablaze with pseudo black pride. I purposely evoke a fire metaphor here to remind everyone that just a few months ago police cars were set ablaze in outrage. This image, which still engenders a warmness in my heart, illuminated to the white world the promise of black rage. This demonstration was not domestic terrorism; it was the unprecedented reaction of the domestically demonized as villainous.

Thus, the White-Supremmy’s uncharacteristically inclusionary narrative put on display last night in our contemporary virtual universe operates with the same integratory motives of the marches and protests. Specifically, the overt effort to perform change only exists to detract support and attention from a (black) nationalist agenda. To put it bluntly, the white world pretends to include us so that we will not create what does not include them.

Moreover, Zendaya’s actualizes yet another moment of glory for this white nationalist nation as an embodiment of what an integratory ideology means for America.

An integratory ideology betrayed most conspicuously in the juxtaposition between White Supremmy winner Zendaya and Breonna Taylor. Here, I speak specifically to Breonna Taylor being a fashion choice worn, literally, by black actresses yesterday evening. Taylor, following her brutal murder in March, has become a symbol of contemporary care. From her still viral hashtag, several murals, and even as a cover girl to O Magazine and Vanity Fair, Taylor has become a social ornament that illuminates a new wave of oppression. Concerning the White-Supremmy’s, Taylor elucidates the dwindling, assassinated presence that is the African in America. Taylor is a fashion statement, representative of a not-so-distant past, a symbol of a flame extinguished by the very white supremacist tyranny that celebrates Zendaya and affords her flame longevity.

Yet, as a black woman, I am to rejoice in Zendaya’s white-supremmy win and personalize this victory. She is to embody the American Dream; if you just work hard, the world is yours. Though the truth remains if you are a black person who illustrates the white supremacist narrative in a scripted or societal role the white world will rejoice in your mimicry. Black people are consistently labeled haters if they fail to clap when a world that hates them says clap. Zendaya illuminates yet another white supremacist victory in seducing the oppressed into believing the white light at the end of the tunnel is anything but a train coming and provides oppressors a means to substantiate America as a meritocracy and not a white supremacist space.

These meritocracy claims are easily disputed by the small few who acknowledge the true reason for Zendaya’s “success.” Zendaya, like Kamala Harris, Halle Berry, amongst other women deemed socially black by a white supremacist would appeal to both black and white constituencies because of their, to evoke Katherine McKitterick’s theory, absented-presence, positionally to race. Their blackness is there and not there, physically and socially manifested how this white nationalist nation sees fit. Therefore, it isn’t acting, politics, or any other professional level that encompasses their “feat.” It is a white nationalist victory in getting the masses, especially black people, to think that it is ever about a show, a performance, a platform, or even an individual. Black women who accept this victory of their own have internalized the ideology that it is the Kamala Harrises and the Zendayas who make it and it is their job to applaud not to achieve. It is their job to be a white man or white woman’s fantasy, to paint their blackness white to gain an honor solely consummated when their black skin sits beneath an artificial spotlight. It is their job to be worn in absence not to be present. Furthermore, it is not just gold in the hands of the blacks deemed worthy of white nationalist recognition, it is a noose around our collective necks. Thus, whether you’re Viola Davis, Halle Berry, and Zendaya, you are merely “the help” to the hegemonic forces that continue to dominate Hollywood and determine black heroes.

So, no, I cannot rejoice in the crumbs a racist society throws at a collective that should solely don crowns.

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