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Not so white Emmys: A blip or real progress on diversity?

LOS ANGELES • From Insecure's 20something women to the Muslim-American star of Ramy, Sunday's Emmy line-up is an unprecedented showcase of people of colour.

But the American television industry needs to take concrete action on pledges to nurture non-white writers and directors to ensure that the awards ceremony this year is not just a blip triggered by a summer of protests over systemic racism in the United States, observers say.

"I'm sure the last thing the Television Academy wanted was to have an 'Emmys so white' controversy in the middle of all that," said Mr Eric Deggans, TV critic for National Public Radio.

"So I'm not surprised they paid special attention to the work of black performers," said Mr Deggans, author of the 2012 book, Race Baiter.

Record Emmy nominations for people of colour included nods for Kerry Washington (Little Fires Everywhere and American Son), Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), Billy Porter (Pose), Regina King (Watchmen), Issa Rae (Insecure) and Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us and Watchmen).

Watchmen, the superhero alternative reality drama infused with racial themes, led nominations with 26 nods.

Nominations open doors for other black, Asian and Latino artists and shape perceptions beyond the world of entertainment, said Mr Rashad Robinson, president of social justice organisation Colour of Change.

"What these awards represent is the industry's way of creating a system of letting people in, of creating access to jobs and opportunities," he said.

"It dictates the stories we get to see in the world about who we are, and that has deep implications on the unwritten rules about how we are treated in hospitals, by judges and at schools."

The Emmy nominees came from shows that were made before the United States began a painful cultural reckoning over racism this summer.

More are on their way, including documentary Driving While Black; Woke, about a black cartoonist who has an encounter with police; abolitionist drama The Good Lord Bird; and Enslaved, about the history of the slave trade.

Mr Robinson said that exciting as it is to see black artists and stories break through, more structural changes such as inclusion riders, diversity in writers rooms and fully rounded characters are needed to ensure lasting change.

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