If there’s a trope reality TV and its viewers like to feast on, it’s fighting, feuding, backstabbing, scheming, gossiping women who seem out to get each other for the most mundane reasons. You don’t have to look far to find it, throw a stone at the TV guide and you’ll come across women flinging drinks and hating on each other. A special flavor of this feast, one that has proven to be tried, tested, enjoyed and overdone is fighting black women.
From Love and Hip Hop to Real Housewives of Atlanta, and even on shows like America’s Next Top Model, women of color are constantly pitted against one another and the result is high ratings, blog mentions and sadly the perpetuation of an unfortunate stereotype – the one that portrays black women as bitter, jealous, angry and aggressive. Every time a woman takes off earrings and attempts to snatch a wig – we all point and laugh and some of us even shake our heads and say “black women…”
It’s a hard stereotype to shake and we could easily say we see different forms of it – whether it’s watered down when people judge Serena Williams for not smiling or highly concentrated when a black woman speaking up for her rights is dismissed as aggressive. No, it isn’t fair but it is definitely what is considered the norm.
Isn’t reality TV supposed to be – well, real? I’m not impressed by the way we are portrayed time and again and that’s why I draw so much inspiration from the sisterhood of black actresses who don’t fight over the spotlight or start pointless social media wars. They do more than that – they support each other, root for each other and walk together as sisters in a struggle that’s greater than any ego, role or the celebrity culture that bows down to the individual.
In 2012 during her ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood acceptance speech, Kerry Washington said, “There’s room for all of us.” It was a stirring acknowledgement of the difficult journey women of color face in a Hollywood that is deaf to the depth and breadth of our experience. Her speech was filled with loving words for her colleagues, and the need for artists to continue bring to life, with passion, the many stories that have yet to be told.
My heart was warmed when I saw Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington on a red carpet, greeting each other with so much love and respect. I’ve noticed, when a new movie/TV show comes out starring black actresses, their peers support them because black sisterhood shouldn’t be about fighting over ratings but fighting to make more space for other women of color, so that more girls can “cross the line” Viola Davis so perfectly mentioned in her acceptance speech.
Viola Davis’ speech and the fact that she was standing on that stage touched me, and when she mentioned other black actresses I felt my eyes well up with inspired tears. What really got me going was when she started listing her peers – sharing the spotlight with Taraji, Kerry, Halle, Nicole, Gabrielle and Meagan. That moment, her being the first black woman to win that Emmy wasn’t just about her – we all felt like we were up there with her and the reactions of Taraji and Kerry show that sisterhood, black sisterhood exists and it is beautiful, unlike the horrors we see on many of our screens nowadays.
During the 2015 Emmy Awards the love and respect this exclusive club feels for each other was palpable. The victories, from Regina King to Uzo Aduba to Viola Davis were not celebrated in a vacuum. Indeed, they were celebrated by the legions of black actresses before them, those who will come after and all of us at home who waited years for this moment.
This isn’t just a sisterhood of hugs and air kisses – it’s a sisterhood built on mutual love and belonging because the struggle is won by collective effort, support and excellent work. I want this to rub off on all women who think it’s impossible for girls to get along, the ones who say they can never ever be friends with other girls. Black sisterhood is possible and it is real – sometimes we have to look away from manufactured reality to the real heroines who embody #blackgirlmagic.