Image: Eric Jamison/Invision/AP
Viola Davis kicked off her Emmy Awards acceptance speech with a powerful quote that dates back more than a century — one that, sadly, is still very much relevant in 2015.
“In my dreams and visions, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful, white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.”
Davis was paraphrasing a quote by Harriet Tubman in the 1800s, assigning it a new face. “And let me tell you something,” the Juilliard-educated actress added, “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
“So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black. And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Megan Goods, the Gabrielle Unions: Thank you for taking us over that line.”
This isn’t the first time that Davis has spoken openly about racial inequity in Hollywood — and more generally, in America. Earlier this year, she said that she “had never seen a 49-year-old, dark-skinned woman who is not a size 2 be a sexualized role in TV, film, everywhere.”
Davis’s win last night cements one step on the way to crossing that line. But even after a powerful moment like this one, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go before racial inequality is a thing of the past. Luckily, we have women like this one giving a voice to the fight.
Congratulations Viola. You deserve every single moment.