Last November, Kerry Washington guest starred on Saturday Night Live after months of complaints about the show’s lack of ethnically diverse cast members. Kerry and the cast even poked fun at the controversy in the opening skit as she was tasked with portraying prominent Black women like Oprah and Michelle Obama within seconds of each other. The episode was extremely popular and it did nothing but make the cries for diversity louder. A couple of months later, SNL announced they had hired Sasheer Zamata and a couple of black female writers. For many, this was a sign of progress and people eagerly anticipated the new changes.
Sadly, all of that hooping and hollering has come back to bite everyone in the ass in the form of Leslie Jones’ skit that aired this past weekend. I don’t watch television that often so I didn’t know about the skit until it popped up on my Facebook page and I clicked on the link. I regretted my decision as soon as she opened her mouth. From the neo-slave vocal tone to the slave breeding draft pick bragging, the skit was several types of wrong. Black folks rightfully raised hell and to make matters worse, Jones isn’t apologetic.
Jones said a mouthful on her Twitter page:
If anybody should be offended is white folks cause it’s what they did. Y’all so busy trying to be self righteous you miss what the joke really is. Very sad I have to defend myself to black people. Now I’m betting if Chris Rock or Dave Chappelje did that joke or jay z or Kanye put in a rap they would be called brilliant. Cause they all do this type of material. 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 cause we too fucking sensitive and instead of make lemonade out of lemons we just suck the sour juice from the lemons. Wake up. I wouldn’t be able to do a joke like that if I didn’t know my history or proud of where I came from and who I am
I hate to see stuff like this but I believe this could be a teachable moment. Merely hiring a negro here and there isn’t a true sign of progress. Donald Sterling employed plenty of Black people but he was still a racist old sack of oatmeal. There are plenty of bigots with Black employees that are willing to tolerate almost anything as long as they get a paycheck. I’m sure many of us have had to bite our tongues to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We shouldn’t have to make those types of compromises but that is many of our realities. Still, we have to stop viewing a seat at the white man’s table as success because we’ll still end up making those compromises. Yes, I was happy for Zamata and others for reaching their goals but I will be elated when shows starring and created by Black people are just as coveted. I want to see more Shonda Rhimes-es and Mara Brock Akils taking over the airwaves. Both of them have proved Black creativity can be profitable with shows like Scandal and Being Mary Jane, respectively. There are a few of us that are trying to follow in these giantesses’ footsteps. Belle and Dear White People are all products of Black minds and have achieved critical acclaim. YouTube has become a gold mine for Black talent like Chescaleigh, Spoken Reason and Hartbeat, among others. Not to mention, the scores of media outlets, podcasts, blogs and other mediums that we have created. We have the tools at our disposal, we just have to use them to construct our empires. In the words of Lamar Tyler of BlackandMarriedwithKids.com, the gatekeepers are gone.