It’s time to stop trying to integrate ‘SNL’
This article has been cross-posted with permission.
Saturday Night Live is what happens when white people enjoy something that’s anti-Black, systematically bigoted, and generally exclusionary to non-whites. SNL producers thought that throwing in a few Black people who we hoped had home-training would fix it. Because that’s not how white supremacy works. It took me a while to put all that together though.
I was never really into SNL growing up. I watched MadTV which was much funnier, less problematic, and significantly more representative across gender, race, and sexuality than SNL. Before that, I watched Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey, and Kim Wayans on the funniest sketch show ever, In Living Color. Next to theChappelle Show, In Living Color remains the gold standard for late-night, live comedy television.
So, no, I don’t have the fond SNL memories of Eddie Murphy (or his supposed David Spade drama), Chris Rock, or even Tracy Morgan. My time watching the show started when I was an adult, somewhere around maybe 2007 or so. Thus, my perception has always been from a position of critique.
A couple of years ago, I went on a pretty epic tirade on Twitter using the hashtag #CancelSNL. This was following their “Black Jeopardy” skit that reduced Black people and their various experiences in the United States to problematic stereotypes and tropes that exist mainly in white people’s imaginations. That was back during the era of toothless internet activism and Black Twitter gatekeeping. Then, everything required a hashtag to draw the attention of the publishers and producers of shows like Saturday Night Live. I have come to realize though, that canceling SNL, or simply not watching for that matter, are not lasting solutions.
Efforts to integrate the show
A few months before the skit in question, SNL hired chronically under-funny Sasheer Zamata. At the time, the show’s producers were also in talks to move Leslie Jones from the writer’s room to the acting floor. We should have known what to expect from her.
Just a month after my calls to cancel the show, Jones performed her now infamous “Slave Draft” bit on Weekend Update. To call it a disappointment would be an understatement.
The horribly out-of-touch and generally problematic skit drew a lot of attention. In it, Jones made light of the rapes of enslaved Black women. Then, she went a step further. Jones poked fun at Black women’s perceived functionality to receive sperm and bear children – regardless of willingness, and how that has become a dominant narrative in the white imagination. She even joked about not being able to get a man now but how she would be great for breeding in slave times. I wish this were an exaggeration.
Jones never apologized for it either. Instead, across a sequence of tweets consolidated by HuffPost,Jones called us (by “us” I mean the mostly Black women who were disappointed with the skit) “self-righeous” “idiots” and “morons” for saying anything at all. She added this,
“Just cause it came from a strong black woman who ain’t afraid to be real y’all mad. So here is my announcement black folks, you won’t stop me and Im gonna go even harder and deeper now. Cause it’s a shame that we kill each other instead of support each other. This exactly why black people are where we are now cause we too fucking sensitive and instead of make lemonade out of lemons we just suck the sour juice from the lemons. Wake up.”
Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos