By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood November 4, 2013 at 11:00AM
Over the last couple of weeks there has been an ongoing controversy over the lack of African American women on Saturday Night Live. Honestly, it's probably something we all should have been talking about sooner. It began when one of the players on the show Kenan Thompson, talked about how the show had a hard time finding African American women to be a part of the show.
The issue escalated last week when the online civil rights organization color of change.org addressed a letter to the show's creator and producer Lorne Michaels asking him to address the issue of the lack of black women in the cast. Here's a section from the letter:
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.
Mr. Michael's didn't directly respond but said to the AP: "It's not like it's not a priority for us...It will happen. I'm sure it will happen."
Ironically, or not, this weekend the show was being hosted by Kerry Washington, the star of hit TV show Scandal which is created by an African American woman. According to Wikipedia the show has been running 39 years and has had 749 episodes. Only 7 other African American women have hosted the show prior to this weekend. They include: Halle Berry, Rosario Dawson, Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Gabourey Sidibe, Cicely Tyson and Oprah Winfrey.
I give the show props for taking on the issue head on at the top of the show. Watch the cold open below for how they handled it. The skit included the following declaration:
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.