SNL cast a black woman named Sasheer Zamata and signed on two black writers, Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes. SNL’s “Weekend Update” sketch featured Jones and the “newscaster” talking about actress Lupita Nyong’o’s appearance on People‘s cover as the “Most Beautiful” person. Jones said that this set a new precedent for black beauty. She joked about her own appearance and invoked race-based humor, the kind comedians used to do without fear of public flogging before America became politically (and stultifyingly) correct:
“Back in the slave days, I would have never been single,” Jones said, after joking about being “Most Useful,” as opposed to Nyong’o’s “Most Beautiful” title….”I’m 6 feet tall, and I’m strong, Colin. … I mean, look at me, I’m a mandingo.”…”Massah would have hooked me up with the best brotha on the plantation. … I would be the No. 1 slave draft pick. All of the plantations would want me.”
I don’t find this funny, but who cares what I think? It’s irreverent, as humor tends to be. The backlash followed. Ebony‘s Jamilah Lemieux wrote that she was “horrified” and “disgusted that Jones dared make light of slave rape AND dismiss the significance of The Lupita Moment all in one fell swoop—and that she jumped and hollered like some sort of banshee while doing it…it was appalling to see this sister gleefully acting like she was auditioning for Birth of a Nation 2: We’s Really Like Dis!”
Lemieux said Jones should be ashamed of herself for her unacceptable form of humor. Jones defended herself on Twitter. To be acceptable among black progressives, Jones now must perform approved humor that doesn’t make black people look or feel bad. Good luck with that!
For the record, Jamilah Lemieux is the same writer who assumed that Juan Williams’s son, Raffi, was white. Raffi responded to one of Lemieux’s tweets, and she wrote, “Oh great, here comes a White dude telling me how to do this Black thing. Pass.” Ebony apologized to Raffi and acknowledged Lemieux’s “lack of judgment on her personal Twitter account.” The publication also said it “strongly believes in the marketplace of ideas.”
Back to SNL. When the people in charge of SNL decided to turn political and allow people to demand they hire a black woman, they put themselves under this kind of scrutiny.
Photo credit: Leslie Jones’s official web site.