Why The "Unmasking" Of Viola Davis On HTGAWM Is The Blackest Thing We've Ever Seen This Week


1. Because Blackness, in its essence, is about innovation and creativity born out of circumstance. It's assigning practical solutions to less than ideal situations. It's the perpetual shifting of an imperfect paradigm. It's how soul food was created. It's why ball players from Chicago are traditionally adept at getting to the hoop because it's too windy there to really become a great shooter. It's everything we love and hate about hip-hop. It's us.

And, on How to Get Away With Murder last night, Blackness allowed Shonda Rhimes to create a 120 second-long scene unlike anything we've ever seen on television before. There have been other movies and television shows were characters have been forced to demask for various reasons. But nothing with the levels of racial, historical, and even sexual context of Viola Davis' Annalise Keating taking off her "mask" — her wig, her makeup, and even her eyelashes — to confront her White husband. I've probably watched tens of thousands of hours of TV, but that was one of the 10 most remarkable things I've ever seen on screen.

viola davis

2. Because nothing is Blacker than a Black person "fixing their face" right before a confrontation. Sometimes the face fixing involves an application of Vaseline. Sometimes it's a removal of jewelry. (Raise your hand if you've seen two people pause to take earrings and/or chains off before fighting. Raise both hands if you were that person.) Sometimes it's just your best ice grill. Either way, "Blackness" is also the process of not allowing your fighting to impact your flawless.

3. Because last night's scene was basically Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis uniting to say "Fuck your "less than classically beautiful."

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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It's good to see this kind of thing on TV. But I noticed she had a white husband. I'm not against interracial dating, but why do these shows that feature black women and other various non white women always have a white husband? What kind of message are they trying to convey? Am I to believe that this is the standard? That if I go to the mall all the black women are with white guys? Because its not like that at ALL!! I so want a show that portrays blacks positively AND has black couples on it. But I guess that's just asking too much.