With Kerry Washington as host of Saturday Night Live over the weekend, the criticism about the show’s lack of diversity — particularly the fact that the program currently employs zero African-American women — was on full display, and the show acknowledged the problem in the opening sketch, having Washington forced to play Michelle Obama, Oprah, and — from offstage — even Beyoncé waiting in the wings.
A message then played over the sketch, saying, “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.” The message? Saturday Night Live (hopefully) got that there’s a problem here.
Today, the civil-rights organization Color of Change, which previously wrote an open letter to Lorne Michaels about the lack of black women on the program, released the following statement to EW about how they thought the show addressed the controversy.
“It was compelling to watch Kerry Washington and Jay Pharoah take on the issue of SNL’s lack of Black women cast members in the cold open of Saturday night’s episode. While certainly clever, it unfortunately doesn’t change the racial makeup of the current cast, or the reality of SNL‘s problematic history with race and gender. Saturday Night Live has substantial power in shaping the comedic world beyond Saturday nights. The absence of Black women on SNL means that Black women will continue to be overlooked — in both casting and character development — on sitcoms, late night talk shows, and in comedic films.
All jokes aside, we hope that NBC and Lorne Michaels are taking this conversation seriously. After 39 years and 137 cast members — just four of them Black women — Michaels has an opportunity to make lasting change in the show’s casting policies by opening doors for Black women on SNL, and moving us closer to a media landscape that is reflective of the American scene.
We look forward to speaking with Lorne Michaels and SNL about taking the necessary steps to ensure the inclusion of Black women to the cast of Saturday Night Live.”
A rep for Saturday Night Live did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.