SNL Addresses Absence of African-American Women Head On

by Narciso Espiritu

It’s only been a few weeks since veteran Saturday Night Live player Kenan Thompson made a statement regarding the lack of African-American women in SNL’s cast. This issue is something that has been largely un-addressed since Maya Rudolph’s 2007 departure from the sketch comedy show. Should we be ashamed we’ve let that slip for the last six years? Probably. But there are people who want a better answer than that. 

Online civil rights organization,, addressed a letter to SNL’s creator and producer, Lorne Michaels, requesting a statement about the issue at hand:

“Since Maya Rudolph’s departure in 2007, SNL has failed to cast even one Black woman — yet still manages to traffic in dehumanizing portrayals that make race and gender the butt of the joke. Whether it’s Kenan Thompson in drag as the crass, sexually aggressive ‘Virginiaca,’ or white cast member Cecily Strong voicing ‘Verquonica’— a ‘large, non-functional’ (i.e. overweight and lazy), unmistakably ‘Black’ Starbucks coffee machine — SNL seems committed to aggressively continuing to push images of Black women as incompetent, rude, hypersexual and financially dependent. Frankly, we’re tired of this disrespect.”

While Michaels did not respond to the organization directly, he recently commented on the issue, saying, “It’s not like it’s not a priority for us…It will happen. I’m sure it will happen.”

Funny enough, Scandal’s Kerry Washington was the host on last Saturday’s episode. It’s an interesting coincidence to say the least. Aside from Washington, there have only been seven black women to host and four black female cast members over SNL’s 39-year tenure (yep, it’s been that long). That total is a number you could count on your hands (provided you have polydactyly.)

However, in a surprising twist, Saturday’s cold open directly addressed the issue with this scrolling statement in the middle of the sketch:

“The producers of Saturday Night Live would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight…Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent and also because ‘SNL’ does not currently have a black woman in the cast. As for the latter reason, we agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future…unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.”

Though the statement was honest, one has to wonder how much of it was said in jest. Having another white dude ride the SNL rocket to fame is about as expected as it gets. Though, we can’t forget Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Kristen Wiig, all of whom have enjoyed continued acclaim following SNL exits. For now, though, we’ll just have to trust SNL to do the right thing. 

How do you feel about the absence of black female representation on SNL? In general? Do you believe in SNL? Sound off yo.

Thanks to Indiewire 

Photos from Indiewire, Zap2it

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