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@nbcsnl, Still Racist

December 16, 2013

Sooooo…Saturday Night Live is conducting and (extremely public) search for “as many as two,” women of color to join their cast.

Wow, two? Two whole WoC  which would round out their female cast to six whole females and three actual black folks.

You can’t see me, but I’ll let you in on some important info. If I roll my eyes any harder I might injure myself.

This farcical “search” is every single example of what is wrong when privileged Caucasians try to prove how awesomely not racist they are. They fail. What they succeed in doing is being extremely racist. The sad, desperate insistence that they are so ultra, super not at all racist does what it always does.

It makes the insidious and pervasive racism within the person trying to prove otherwise overwhelmingly clear.

To put it in the most basic terms, if you feel the need to assure People of Color that you’re totally not racist and do something to prove it? You probably did something racist at the outset.

In searching for one (or even two! sigh) funny WoC SNL has made it clear they are searching for a token, not a comedienne. And let’s not pretend that this is anything other than a search for a token black woman or two to shut up the extremely valid criticisms that were leveled when the new, entirely Caucasian cast was revealed in August.

The fact that in their August search for cast members they couldn’t come up with even one black or Asian or First Nations or Latina cast member? Can we please not pretend that it was because they were no talented, funny women in the whole country or that some talented, funny non-Caucasian women didn’t audition? Does anyone believe that? I don’t.

It wasn’t that the WoC weren’t there or that they aren’t funny. It’s that the people who run casting on SNL simply don’t see  their painfully Caucasian cast as problematic. Despite living in New York, the fact that they are television producers means that most of them are at least middle class if not well above that. One of the many privileges of being well off and white in the United States means that you don’t have to interact with PoC unless you want to, not on anything other than a surface level. That makes us easy to ignore.

Worse than ignoring us, the define us solely by our race and gender. Kerry Coddett, brilliant and quite funny in her own right, made the point that the problem is not so much SNL’s failure to find a WoC, but their inability to write well.

The Kerry Washington episode, and the show’s long history, suggests that Saturday Night Live just doesn’t know what to do with black women. The roles it offers to them fall in line with much of the rest of popular media: stereotypical, demeaning, and scarce…

Danitria Vance Slave

The fact that rather than bring in any WoC  they instead continued to put Kenan Thompson in a dress any time they needed a female character of a darker hue? Racist. Also, it appears pretty trasphobic to me, given the fact that part of the joke is that you’re looking at a dude in a dress. They did the same with Garrett Morris before.

Kenan Thompson Drag

The fact that, after failing to find any WoC they are now using their search as publicity? Racist. The failure is still there and this isn’t a solution, as I previously explained. It’s simply a continuation of the problem.

Don’t get it twisted. According to reports this search isn’t genuine. They’re not looking for the funniest WoC. They may not even be really looking.

One actress who auditioned in L.A., Tiffany Haddish, told TMZ on Dec. 2 she thought the audition was “total BS” because Lorne Michaels wasn’t there. “It was only thrown together to quiet SNL’s critics … not to find a new cast member,” wrote TMZ.

Haddish reportedly said “they already know who they want … they’re just wasting all these black women’s time and gas money.”

How would they already know what they want? Perhaps because they’re only looking for one thing; someone who can play Michelle Obama.

If that is the case well, sigh. Did they not learn anything when they hired Jay Pharoah specifically to play President Obama?

In case you’re wondering, the lesson they should have learned is that tokenism is easy for PoC to recognize and not even a little bit impressive. Trust.

And this returns us to the point that was made by Kerry Coddett. The SNL writers view PoC, especially WoC, exclusively as stereotypes or caricatures; The Mammy, The Jezebel or The Sapphire.

The problem is certainly not a lack of available talent. Neither is it the audience of the show. The problem is Lorne Michaels. The problem is the writing staff and their inability or lack of interest in writing nuanced and diverse characters as opposed to racist caricatures.

To quote Kerry Coddett, once again

Perhaps it’s not that black women aren’t “ready” for SNL; it’s that SNL isn’t ready for a black woman. And it won’t be—until the show is ready to change the roles it asks black actresses to play.

Yeah. I think it’s probably that.

Ellen Cleghorne Queen Shenequa

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