At this point, it's a question as old as time, or at least 1975: Why are there no black women on Saturday Night Live? We've noticed, even current cast member Jay Pharoah has noticed (and offered a suggestion that will likely not be taken) — so why hasn't it happened yet? There's likely no one better to ask than creator Lorne Michaels, so that's exactly what civil rights group ColorofChange.org did in a new letter addressed to SNL's head honcho: In it, ColorofChange.org asked Lorne Michaels to address the lack of black women in the cast, and comments on the sometimes racist content of some sketches.
"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," ColorofChange.org's Executive Director Rashad Robinson wrote. "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."
Robinson also notes that Kerry Washington's hosting debut on the series tomorrow night "at least acknowledges that TV viewers want to see dynamic, multidimensional Black women characters on screen...but it’s scandalous that after Ms. Washington’s episode wraps on Saturday, this season is unlikely to feature any Black women characters at all."
Earlier this month, longtime SNL cast member Kenan Thompson also spoke out on the lack of female black comedians on the show, but instead of blaming management — who just this year hired six new cast members, five of them white males, and one of them a white female — he blamed the "lack of quality black female comedians." It's a despicable statement, which just makes the fact that Robinson sent this letter that much sweeter.
The letter was just sent yesterday, so Michaels hasn't responded yet — if at all — but he did recently tell the Associated Press that the lack of female black comedians on the show isn't "intentional" (could have fooled me). "It's not like it's not a priority for us," he reportedly said. "It will happen. I'm sure it will happen." I hope so, but gotta say, this statement just seems like the kind of PR bullshitting that executive spit out to sweep issues under the rug without being torn apart in the media. If it was a priority, it would have happened already, especially with the recent casting shuffle.
You can read the full letter (and you absolutely should) over at The Hollywood Reporter, here. Washington's SNL episode airs tomorrow night on NBC at 11:30 p.m.