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Riz Ahmed Says His Lone Emmy Win Won’t Undo Hollywood’s ‘Systemic’ Racism

Sunday night was a night of firsts for the Emmys. Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for Master of None, Sterling K. Brown became the first black actor to win Outstanding Lead in a Drama for This is Us, and Donald Glover of Atlanta became the first black person to ever take home the award for comedy directing, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Another person to mark a historic “first” for the Emmys was The Night Of’s Riz Ahmed, the first South Asian man to win an acting Emmy. But rather than congratulate the presumably majority-white pool of Emmy voters on choosing him, he leveraged the spotlight to call attention to the systemic racism that keeps marginalized people from winning Emmys in the first place.

“I don’t know if any one person’s win of an award or one person snagging one role or one person doing very well changes something that is a systemic issue of inclusion in this industry, as it is in your industry [media],” he told reporters in the press room, per The FADER. “Ultimately, now what we’re seeing is that TV, in particular, is a global medium. People are streaming shows or watching them all around the world. Hopefully, we’re going to see a kind of globalization of our storytelling and a globalization of the talent pool we draw from.”

Daily Beast entertainment writer Ira Madison III shared similar sentiments about this emphasis on individual firsts in a post-Emmys piece, titled “How to Get Away With the Bare Minimum of Diversity.”

“Two years after the first best actress in a drama Emmy was awarded to a black woman shouldn’t be the year you pat yourself on the back,” he writes. “When we’re still in a business of firsts, you can keep your congratulations and you can keep your jokes about diversity, tooit’s the bare minimum of diversity.”


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