Why Saturday Night Live's Diversity Problem Isn’t Simply Solved With a New Black Cast Member

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When controversy began to stir surrounding the lack of diversity on Saturday Night Live, I remember thinking, “this should be interesting.” In a world where a lack of diversity on TV shows is called out only to be completely ignored, this one seemed to take a hold of the American public and mainstream media. The controversy was fueled by the fact that one out of the two black male cast members, Kenan Thompson, publicly stated that he would no longer dress in drag to play black women. (He later embroiled himself in his own controversy, by stating that the black women that had previously auditioned to be a part of SNL just “weren’t ready,” insinuating that there were no qualified black women auditioning.) Jay Pharoah also spoke out to say that SNL should, indeed, add a black female cast member, even naming one woman who might fit the bill.

Tweets and posts called for more inclusion. Critics talked about the disservice Lorne Michaels, the creator and producer, had done by not having a black woman on set to portray the number of black women present in pop culture. Media put forth a number of black female comedians who were ready for the SNL stage.

The first response of SNL? They admitted they lacked diversity...by mocking it. In the show hosted by arguably one of the most famous TV stars today (who also happens to be black), Kerry Washington, the actress performed in a skit in which she poked fun at the idea that Michelle Obama was going to leave the room, only to be replaced by Oprah.

SNL’s intro for the show read: “The producers at 'Saturday Night Live' would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight. We made these requests both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent, but also because 'SNL' doesn’t currently have a black woman in the cast. As for the latter, we realize 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."

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