October 24, 2016

Is SNL's "Black Jeopardy" racist?

It's very funny and has a significant point to make — that lower class black and white people are more alike than different — but that doesn't make it not racist:



This is from last Saturday's show, with Tom Hanks, and — looking for commentary on it — I am reminded that the "Black Jeopardy" idea has been used before, but, in earlier variations, the third contestant — the one who doesn't fit the stereotype of a lower class black person — was unable to understand the questions in the stereotypically lower-class-black-person way that was easy for the other 2 contestants. There was Drake, the Canadian black person, and Louis C.K. as a white African-American studies professor. This past week, the contestant who seemed not to belong (because he was white), was, in fact, able to get all the answers.

Tom Hanks's lower-class white man wore a "Make America Great Again" hat, and this led one commentator, Daniel Barna at Complex to say:
There may not be as big a difference between Trump supporters and the black community after all. That was the clever premise behind Saturday Night Live's "Black Jeopardy" sketch, which saw last night's host Tom Hanks don a red “Make America Great Again” cap as Doug, a pretty docile Trumpeteer who gives all other Trumpeteers a good name.
Docile. Well, I guess the point is that SNL viewers were invited to perceive the disaffected white people who turn to Trump as sympathetic because they remind us of black people — even though the black people he's like — the other "Black Jeopardy" contestants — have clownishly rude and ignorant ideas. I wouldn't call them docile. They are angry, suspicious, and proud of themselves — in a manner similar to the stereotypical Trumpster.

Here's Daniel Politi at Slate:
[T]his episode of “Black Jeopardy” looked to be an easy setup to mercilessly mock Trump supporters at every turn. Instead, it revealed that conspiracy theorist Doug had a lot more in common with the other contestants—Leslie Jones as Shanice and Sasheer Zamata as Keeley—than most people would have likely expected....
Oh! I thought I was going to get some serious analysis here. Actually, this goes nowhere. I had the feeling that people were talking about this sketch, but I'm not finding any depth to the analysis.

To me, the sketch is too racist to just point at and call funny. It relies on a stereotype of black people.

It's also too serious not to want to talk seriously about. The serious point is something I've heard — mostly from left-wing people — for decades: That what really matters is not race but class. This orientation is important going forward out of the 2016 election, because the Trumpsters have peeled away from the establishment Republican Party. Where will they go after Trump loses the election? (I know, I'm assuming, but come on.) Shouldn't the people who coalesced around Bernie Sanders be looking to embrace the disaffected, working-class white people who turned to Trump? I could see the 2 parties flipping and re-composing themselves, with half of each party connecting with half of the other. Maybe nobody wants to talk about this until after the election is over. But no: I do. I want to talk about it.

ADDED: Meade wanted me to address the "punchline" of the sketch. The "final Jeopardy" category is announced: "Lives that matter." The black host and contestants turn and stare at Hanks. This happens after Hanks had won their enthusiastic approval and inclusiveness. The host then laughs and says: "Well, it was good while it lasted." The audience laughs a lot. Hanks's Doug mutters that he has a lot to say about that, and the host (Keenan Thompson) brushes him off.

This could be taken to mean that the idea that had been developed — that working-class people should see what they have in common and get together — was all just a fantasy that everyone entertained for a while and now we're getting back to the reality of hostility and deep-seated suspicion.

But I saw the ending as similar to the ending of the great old "Theodoric of York" SNL sketch from 1978. In that sketch, Steve Martin plays a "medieval barber" who, in the end, gets the idea of using the scientific method to understand disease and discover treatments. Then there's a pause and the sketch ends with him saying: "Nah!"

That doesn't mean that the "nah" was the right answer. It's patently wrong, but Theodoric made progress toward the right answer before he threw it away. Thus, the last line isn't necessarily the insight the writers want you to take with you. That line could be the funny-sad experience of the characters losing an insight that you have received and should not forget. Indeed, the characters' loss of the insight could reinforce its value as you feel the poignancy of their losing it.

95 comments:

PB said...

I don't think the skit is racist, but that it exposes racism. The racism in the african-american community towards white people. This is demonstrated in the surprised looks at the african american actors when the white guy gets the answers correct.

PB said...

Where are the wealthy african-american community members who fund poor whites? We know about the wealthy white americans who fund poor african-americans.

sykes.1 said...

The idea that economic class is the important variable is classical Marxism and oh so 19th Century. The decisive switch from class to nation occurred in WWI. Mussolini was expelled from the Italian Socialist (ie communist) Party because he promoted Italian nationalism and wanted Italy to enter the war on the side of the Allies in order to gain territory. (The victorious Allies denied Italy any substantial territory.) Also, although doctrinaire socialists urged European workers to refuse to fight on grounds of worker solidarity, the workers and the socialists representing them in the European parliaments supported the nationalist wars. After the war, the Frankfurt movement arose, which deprecated the working class as a source of revolution and which promoted a revolution by (and largely for) the vanguard. That your progressive colleagues are obsessed with race and sex is merely the outcome of 90 of socialist ideology evolution. That some of them still mention class only indicates that Marx is still read, if not taken too seriously. You might ask them why they support Hillary Clinton, the Wall Street candidate, and the enemy of the white working class.

Bob said...

There is a difference between racist and racial.

tim in vermont said...

Trumpsters have peeled away from the establishment Republican Party. Where will they go after Trump loses the election?

Democrats abandoned them, then the Chuck style Republicans abandoned them again. I can't imagine why they are upset about it. Just like the Democrats are all but abandoning the black community, for Hispanics.

Shouldn't the people who coalesced around Bernie Sanders be looking to embrace the disaffected, working-class white people who turned to Trump?

I have been saying all along that the elites are using cultural differences to keep the Tea Party and occupy people at each the other's throats. It will keep working, because not only is everybody a little bit racist, everybody is a bigot, and Hillary's remarks about "deplorables" just strengthened her hold on the bigots on her side. Nobody wants to look at their own bigotry.

tim in vermont said...

Oh yeah, and can somebody give me a working definition of racist? I mean one that would be useful in identifying behaviors that harm others so they can be changed, while not unduly suppressing freedom of expression?

rhhardin said...

The bad ideas were all drilled in by the media in the first place. Like don't act white. Good character is a loser's game.

Blacks were needed as a stereotype in the soap opera narrative so that women would watch it.

Brando said...

I'm guessing by "docile" they meant that the Hanks character seemed to be getting along fine with the black characters rather than fighting with each other.

MadisonMan said...

It's only racist in that it doesn't expose all Trump supporters as bigoted lowlifes.

The cleverness of that skit (I surprise myself by talking about an SNL skit I consider to be clever) is that it flips expectations. The reactions that flipping generates are funny.

rhhardin said...

Like black lives matter. It's a how stupid can you be narrative for the viewers.

Brando said...

"Oh yeah, and can somebody give me a working definition of racist?"

Hatred or other negative and incorrect portrayal of a given racial group.

Lyssa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MayBee said...

Why does it have to be racist?

SNL is a parody show, having fun with people from all walks of life. I think people who see it as racist are used to some unwritten rules we've gotten used to in our society: you can't actually treat all people the same.

Bob Ellison said...

Americans vote in tribes and will continue to do so, increasingly so.

tim in vermont said...

Hatred or other negative and incorrect portrayal of a given racial group

OK, now define "hatred" for me, and "negative," and "incorrect." Let me know, Brando, how these things are determined. I think what you have done is begged the question.

MayBee said...

This is something that I've been concerned about a lot. I've always been an uneasy fit to the Republican party for various reasons, but if the truly pro-Trump wing takes over, I'll be completely lost within it. But there's no way that I can team up with the borderline socialist left, even if it tends toward a more appropriate cultural fit.

Agree.
Poltics is a rich profession. The political parties make a lot of money. Reading the Pedestal emails just drives home how much of politics is making talking points and raising money.
And those in power make more money by driving us apart- further to the edges- than drawing us together.

I've never considered myself a Republican- I actually think the parties are only for the politicians, and people can't really "belong" to them. But I feel like I've got nowhere to go, especially this election, but it doesn't matter one bit to anyone in politics if I'm represented or not. They are just going to steamroll over me and people like me anyway.

MayBee said...

even though the black people he's like — the other "Black Jeopardy" contestants — have clownishly rude and ignorant ideas

Where was this in the skit?

The packet drawer is clownishly rude? Prefering thick women is ignorant?

Hmmm....I feel like this line is quite telling in an odd way.

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim in vermont said...

If a "negative" and "correct" portrayal is not racist, that would be some kind of news flash! What are you? Some alt-right "racial realist"?

See how easy this game is to play? The word means nothing because it is a weapon that means exactly what the person brandishing it wants it to mean in any given instance, without any need for that person to further define or explain. I any "portrayal" of blacks where they don't act like upper middle class whites is racist? I don't know. I wish I was as smart as all you people who use the word and know exactly what it means.

rehajm said...

I thought it was in the Seinfeldian tradition of developing a scenario that would allow them to stereotype and poke fun without crossing the line. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Two weeks before the election I'm surprised SNL went for the laugh instead throwing the punch at their political enemies.

Curious George said...

"But no: I do. want to talk about it."

Well, gather up your neighbors and colleagues. You won't have any "Dougs. Or blacks for that matter.

MayBee said...

Indeed, the characters' loss of the insight could reinforce its value as you feel the poignancy of their losing it.

OMG, Althouse.

It's funny because you know he isn't going to say "Black", and that's all that's acceptable. They are poking fun at everybody in that skit, and that line again pokes fun at everybody.
It's not a loss of insight. It's not poignant.

tim in vermont said...

Talk to Millennials and it is clear that the Democrat Party as we know it is dead too. They rammed through Hillary and hope to lock up the levers of power to keep it in their hands, but I don't see it, unless they turn more and more to voter fraud, you know, the crime that gets investigated by the winners of elections, turn to voter fraud to thwart the popular will within their own party. Use the FEC to control outcomes, the IRS to suppress fundraising, which the IRS scandal does quite effectively. Use the Attorney General as a scandal goalie and the Justice Department and FBI to whitewash their own crimes and to invent crimes for their enemies.

Democracy is dead. Comey's speech was the final croak.

tim in vermont said...

Two weeks before the election I'm surprised SNL went for the laugh instead throwing the punch at their political enemies.

Me too. But I am certain the writers have been reading Wikileaks. Assange is the iceberg that has rent the Clinton Machine below the waterline. Compartments are flooding, one by one. It won't sink before this election, but the Democrats are just as doomed as Chuck's party.

David Begley said...

According to the Left a "docile Trump" supporters are the ones that don't burn down black churches and carry a gun. You know, the ones that starts fights at rallies. That's the narrative. But turns out the narrative was created and paid for by the DNC. Violent Trump supporters was created by the Dems to feed the idea that Trump is dangerous. Same deal the "won't concede" meme. Dangerous, Trump. Hillary, safe.

Caroline Walker said...

Blacks have a distinctive culture. They trade on it, riff on it, and coalesce around it , as human beings of like minds tend to do. When a non-black acknowledges a characteristic as distinctively black, that's racist. I'm practicing saying racistbigothomophobe really fast because that's the right answer to every question.

MayBee said...

It just dawned on me:

People who think John Stewart is the epitome of comedy, people who have gotten used to the recent years of SNL, who think John Oliver "destroys" every week, and Stephen Colbert is hilarious-- these consumers of comedy have gotten used to the idea that you make fun of/parody only things you hate. Because that's what they do.

But that isn't comedy, or it doesn't have to be. Comedy can also just be making fun of things you love, things you find funny, things you find outrageous, or stereotypes even of people you respect. That's what this skit was, that kind of comedy.
But people see it as racist because they are so trained (and in love with) the idea of hate comedy.

Brando said...

"OK, now define "hatred" for me, and "negative," and "incorrect." Let me know, Brando, how these things are determined. I think what you have done is begged the question."

Well that's the rub, isn't it? Everyone will argue over whether something is truly "negative" or "incorrect" or even "pertaining to a racial group". Charles Rangel once implied that saying "we'll cut your taxes" was racist. People today say that complaining about welfare is "racist" because it really means stoking fears of black people (even though more white people are on welfare than black people).

Brando said...

I don't know that the skit's ending really had a message so much as going for the joke, and we can interpret the ending any way we choose. Perhaps the "all lives matter" that "Doug" was likely to say just means he's too racist to really find common ground with black people. Perhaps it's the Left that is too obsessed with race and caring too much about whether "all" or "black" lives are the ones that matter (which aren't mutually exclusive terms). Perhaps the deeper meaning is that once again the specter of race is used to keep the underclass divided while the wealthy keep running the show.

Bob Ellison said...

tim in vermont, FDR created a long-term ideological domination of politics that lasted pretty much until Reagan. Are we in for another ordeal like that?

The youngsters might rise up. They tend to vote for optimism, not pessimism.

It worries me, though. You look at Venezuela and wonder how dumb people can be.

EMD said...

"To me, the sketch is too racist to just point at and call funny. It relies on a stereotype of black people."

Get the fuck out of Madison (and not to hippy-dippy Colorado) for a bit, genius.

Sebastian said...

"To me, the sketch is too racist to just point at and call funny. It relies on a stereotype of black people." To be expected from someone schooled in the tradition of That's-Not-Funny Feminism. It relies on a stereotype of black people! Imagine that! In a skit on a humor program! When the white guy clearly isn't a stereotype but a well rounded character! How dare they!

Anyway, out here in the real world it was funny. And the actors did a very good job.

traditionalguy said...

The message is pretty clear: It is impermissible to not be a racist now. Not dividing into warring race gangs means you are left out of the only game the society leaders are ordering us to play. Doug is assigned to lose. So take your roles. Game On.

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

"that lower class black and white people are more alike than different"

You are giving the writers credit for a lack of prejudice, why? Weren't they making a statement about ALL blacks? The Black Jeopardy host is black but he is not an Alex Trebek, he reacts exactly the same as the contestants.

Poor whites hate the police as much as poor blacks do, they are also more likely to be killed by police. If you know this, the BLM ending bit reflects poorly on the blacks. However, this was written by and for well to do white leftists. They expect the audience viewing the skit to share their bigotry and perceive it as an insult to the poor white Trump supporters.

MayBee said...

There is this certain kind of benign racism that a lot of white liberals have, where they believe black people need to be protected. Not economically, but emotionally.

Althouse has said in the past she protects Obama. Althouse is real, and raw, and she has told us the story about how in school when black children were being called out for bad behavior, she assumed the teacher was racist.
And I think it's people like that - who see this skit as trying to embarrass black people (and I don't think it is! I think it's laughing along!), who find this skit racist.

Jim said...

To all three contestants, Donald Trump says, "what have you got to lose?" Hillary supporters offer only laughter and derision at the lumpenproletariat.

MadisonMan said...

Ending a Skit on an upnote is an art. So many SNL skits just run out of steam. I thought this ending was pretty good because it was ambiguous. How you think it would play out is related to how you viewed the rest of the skit.

Bay Area Guy said...

First, the sketch wasn't funny, clever or provocative. Mostly, it was just meh. Richard Pryor was funny, Redd Foxx was funny. This was just boring.

Second, was it racist? Not really. The Left has tied up the culture in so many knots that people walk around terrified of being called racist, so they watch their tongue, and are afraid say anything even remotely perceived as edgy or controversial. Plain vanilla for everyone - even the once great SNL.

MayBee said...

That doesn't mean that the "nah" was the right answer. It's patently wrong, but Theodoric made progress toward the right answer before he threw it away.

This comparison is off.

The "nah" is funny because it is absurd- it is absolutely the wrong answer. It absolute terms, it is wrong. In historical terms, it is wrong.

But in this skit- which answer was "right"? Who was inching toward the right answer and backed away? We know what the right answer was going to be as far as the game was concerned, but IRL there's no "right" answer. Black/All/Blue

The Cracker Emcee said...

"There is this certain kind of benign racism that a lot of white liberals have, where they believe black people need to be protected. Not economically, but emotionally."

Except that it isn't benign. It's the profoundly vicious, yet unspoken, idea that POC are children and can never be anything else.

rhhardin said...

I like Tom Hanks, especially recent flicks and You've Got Mail, though he always plays himself in movies.

Here it's just straight acting, not himself.

Webgrandma said...

It just reminded me of "Hillbilly Elegy."

Xmas said...

This reminds me of the Ken Bone thing, where in a reddit thread about the Zimmerman decision he points out that Zimmerman was legally justified in shooting Martin, but that still doesn't mean Zimmerman wasn't a scumbag. People jumped all over him for saying the shooting was justified when he was talking about the jury determining the shooting was justified.

MadisonMan said...

The Theodoric of York skit was funny because it put Steve Martin's comedy character into a medieval barber character and they let him run with it. (I don't think the bird part in that skit was actually scripted).

Laslo Spatula said...

Lamar Gonna Set You Straight....

You White People get yourselves all tied up in knots over anything involving Black People, don't you? And when it's about whether something is funny or not -- Lord, it's pitiful, it really is...

Us Black People: we can tell whether the joke is on us or not, all right? We don't need you to explain whether we should be laughing or not, and we KNOW whether YOU should be laughing or not,, but you sure as hell can't seem to figure it out..'.

You wanna hear one of my favorite jokes? Here goes:


A White Guy walks into a Black Bar.

The Black Bartender says "We don't serve your kind here?"

"The White Guy apologizes profusely, explaining he meant no harm and that he now understands that he should not be appropriating Black Culture by being there.

So he leaves, but before he gets to the door a couple of Black Brothers come on up on him and beat the living shit out of the dude.


I LOVE that joke.

And I bet you White People didn't even see the twist: the Black Brothers don't steal his wallet or nothing, they just beat the shit out of him. But I bet you're not sure whether YOU should laugh or not, or whether laughing at that is a Black Thing. Like I said: you all is Pitiful...

You think you got Problems? Fuck You.

I am Laslo.

Sydney said...

But that isn't comedy, or it doesn't have to be. Comedy can also just be making fun of things you love, things you find funny, things you find outrageous, or stereotypes even of people you respect. That's what this skit was, that kind of comedy.

This is what true comedy is. It makes us think about our preconceived notions in a different way, slyly, with humor. It's good to see SNL engaging in real comedy again. I think Tina Fey does a good job with true comedy - both 30 Rock and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt poke fun in all directions.

Evgueni Damaskine said...

Valley girl jeopardy.

1. Right, it's like...
2. Like, whatever...
3. ...

surfed said...

Where are Key and Peele when you really need them?

Jupiter said...

"It's very funny and has a significant point to make — that lower class black and white people are more alike than different — but that doesn't make it not racist:"

OK, Althouse, we get the point. There is no difference between black people and white people. Black people and white people are identical in appearance, in behavior, in values and aspirations, in intelligence, in propensity to commit crimes. The only difference is that all black people are brain surgeons or movie stars or both. Anyone who says different is a racist.

grimson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jupiter said...

tim in vermont said...
"Oh yeah, and can somebody give me a working definition of racist? I mean one that would be useful in identifying behaviors that harm others so they can be changed, while not unduly suppressing freedom of expression?"

Say, tim, maybe you could give us a working definition of "bigot"? You seem to be pretty fond of tossing that hand grenade around.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

It's very funny and has a significant point to make — that lower class black and white people are more alike than different...

Yes, both are equally loathsome to enlightened New Yorkers.

grimson said...

MayBee @ 7:59 AM

. . .these consumers of comedy have gotten used to the idea that you make fun of/parody only things you hate. Because that's what they do.

But that isn't comedy, or it doesn't have to be. Comedy can also just be making fun of things you love, things you find funny, things you find outrageous, or stereotypes even of people you respect. That's what this skit was, that kind of comedy.

The first type is far more common now, and is basically divisive. I would characterize the alternative as one which is inclusive--the audience sees themselves or fully understands the people in the humor.

Many of the Key & Peele skits engage in racial stereotypes, but they strike me as always liking these characters, while still being very funny . . . and inclusive.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

This reminds me of the controversy about Huckleberry Finn. Two human beings, already friends of a kind, discover real friendship and at least substantial equality by escaping from a slave society, living on a raft, mostly on or near a river, "away from it all." On the other hand, Huck never gives up using the n word, many events turn out to have been the work of trickster Tom, and in the end the white characters either remain in the slave society, without questioning it, or seek new adventures in some wilderness which is innocent in that it has very few people.

Is all the progress of the novel lost? Or does it stay with the reader even if the characters don't think they can really do anything to change their society in the short term?

From SparkNotes:

Possibly the most troubling aspect of the novel’s close is the realization that all has been for naught. Jim has, technically, been a free man almost the entire time. All of Huck’s moral crises, all the lies he has told, all the societal conventions he has broken, have been part of a great game. In a way, the knowledge of Jim’s emancipation erases the novel that has come before it. Ultimately, we are left questioning the meaning of what we have read: perhaps Twain means the novel as a reminder that life is ultimately a matter of imperfect information and ambiguous situations, and that the best one can do is to follow one’s head and heart. Perhaps Twain, finishing this novel twenty years after the Civil War concluded and slaves were freed, means also to say that black Americans may be free in a technical sense, but that they remain chained by a society that refuses to acknowledge their rightful and equal standing as individuals. In a sense, perhaps Tom’s mistreatment of Jim is actually a boon, for it leads the other characters in the novel to acknowledge Jim as a worthy human being. In the end, Huckleberry Finn moves beyond questions of slavery, to broader questions of morality and race. Unfortunately, these questions seldom have straightforward answers, and thus the ending of the novel contains as many new problems as solutions.

roadgeek said...

My wife and I thought it was very funny; we laughed and laughed and laughed. Tom Hanks played his part to perfection.

robother said...

The Punchline is unconsciously acknowledging that BLM is all about driving a wedge between blacks and whites, for Democrat votes.

Earnest Prole said...

Of course it's racist -- that's why it's funny

Thorley Winston said...

I noticed that originally the last category was titled “White People” and then after everyone got along in the other categories it was changed to “Lives That Matter.” I wonder if they were suggesting that the people running the show had deliberately changed the name of the last category in order to stir up conflict because the host and contestants were getting along.


HoodlumDoodlum said...

Dave Chappelle did the "black Jeopardy" bit more than 10 years ago:

Chappelle Show: I Know Black People Quiz pt1

He quit his show (and turned down gobs of money) because he felt like too many people (mostly white people) were taking the humor in a racist way--that is, they were laughing based on an agreement with racist/racial stereotypes & jokes and not laughing at the absurdity/wrongness of such stereotypes.

Vulture (2014): Chappelle Returns, has "weeded out his racist fans."

Eugene Robinson (2005): When Racism Is No Longer Funny

"According to Time, Chappelle became unsure about his material for the new season when a white visitor at a taping laughed especially hard and long over a sketch Chappelle performed in blackface. "When he laughed, it made me uncomfortable," Time quotes Chappelle as saying. His longtime writing partner is quoted as confirming that Chappelle had decided some of his material was not funny but "racist."

Char Char Binks said...

Black lives matter to me as much as my life matters to Blacks. Is that racist?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Curious George said..."But no: I do. want to talk about it."

Well, gather up your neighbors and colleagues. You won't have any "Dougs. Or blacks for that matter.


Are you being unfair, Curious George?

Census.Gov Madison WI Quick Facts

About 233k people on the 2010 census:
White alone, percent, April 1, 2010 (a) 78.9%
Black or African American alone, percent 7.3%
Hispanic or Latino, percent, (b) 6.8%

What about the larger area, though, not just the city itself?

Wiki: Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area - Demographics

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 501,774 people, 202,687 households, and 121,171 families residing within the MSA. The racial makeup of the MSA was 90.26% White, 3.50% African American, 0.32% Native American, 2.99% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.27% from other races, and 1.63% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.05% of the population.


Hmm, yeah, CG might have a point. That's a pretty white area you're in, there, Professor. But hey, maybe it's the job--do you plan to move to a more diverse area once you retire? I mean, you seem to like your very-white city & area, but I'm sure it's not because it's so undiverse--choosing to live in an area that's so much whiter than the nation as a whole would be an "ugly" choice, but I'm sure that doesn't apply to you.

AprilApple said...

The message is for black voters: "Hey you don't want to associate with the stupid hick Trump supporters."

That's the message. SNL is air America for late night TV.

AprilApple said...

Tim In Vermont

Talk to Millennials and it is clear that the Democrat Party as we know it is dead too. They rammed through Hillary and hope to lock up the levers of power to keep it in their hands, but I don't see it, unless they turn more and more to voter fraud, you know, the crime that gets investigated by the winners of elections, turn to voter fraud to thwart the popular will within their own party. Use the FEC to control outcomes, the IRS to suppress fundraising, which the IRS scandal does quite effectively. Use the Attorney General as a scandal goalie and the Justice Department and FBI to whitewash their own crimes and to invent crimes for their enemies.

Democracy is dead. Comey's speech was the final croak.



THIS.

Mike said...

I think it is a great skit, and it is more thought provoking than what I've read about it. This ARE changing, and it's true that class often trumps race. But not on every thing.

n.n said...

Class diversity including racism.

Segesta said...

I thought it was funny, but the message truly was that black people are just as dumb and suspicious as Trump supporters.

MadisonMan said...

I noticed that originally the last category was titled “White People” and then after everyone got along in the other categories it was changed to “Lives That Matter.”

"Lives That Matter" was the Final Jeopardy category, not one of the categories (including "White People") during regular Jeopardy.

That's my recollection at least.

Brando said...

Maybe there was a subversive message in there--that whites and blacks really should be getting along but for an establishment that injects racial grievance into everything to divide us. After all, the difference between "all lives matter" and "black lives matter" is pure semantics--it has nothing to do with what you think anyone should do about it.

Brando said...

"I thought it was funny, but the message truly was that black people are just as dumb and suspicious as Trump supporters."

Good point--maybe it was "who are you to look down on these people, when you wouldn't dare look down on blacks who think the same way"?

William said...

Why would you assume that this skit was not at least partially written by the black cast members involved? ........I don't think whites--or at least the kind of whites who write for SNL--would permit themselves such humor.

damikesc said...

Question to ponder: if Hillary ran as a Republican and, word for word, said everything she's ever said in her life...would the New Yorker ever endorse her?

Dave Kern said...

It's still OK to make fun of ourselves. I'm a no-PC guy, and this skit hits the mark. No, it's not racist.

Dave Kern said...

It's still OK to make fun of ourselves. I'm a no-PC guy, and this skit hits the mark. No, it's not racist.

Birches said...

Does anyone doubt that Doug is just as likely to get shot by the cops for being aggressive? I don't. It really is a class issue, not a race issue in the most policed areas.

Andrew Jones said...

For a while I've seen a commonality here, it boils down to "someone else is to blame for my lot in life".

SukieTawdry said...

Damn, that was actually funny. Will wonders never cease. That's all I've ever looked for in a SNL skit. Guess I'm just not into analysing them as metaphors for life.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Brando said...

Good point--maybe it was "who are you to look down on these people, when you wouldn't dare look down on blacks who think the same way"?

All wrapped up in a nice minstrel show skit! You must've thought it was a real knee slapper!

Brando said...

"Why would you assume that this skit was not at least partially written by the black cast members involved?"

I'm assuming it mostly is written by the cast members--they're always pitching their ideas so that they can get airtime. I don't think a lot of white writers could have conceived of or wrote that sketch the way it came out.

"Does anyone doubt that Doug is just as likely to get shot by the cops for being aggressive? I don't. It really is a class issue, not a race issue in the most policed areas."

It is mostly a class issue. Poor whites and poor blacks have far more in common in almost every way than they do with wealthier members of their own races.

Paul Snively said...

It's about neither race nor class, both of which are bog-standard misapprehensions deriving from an essentially Marxist worldview. It's about culture, which is upstream of both race and class.

Let's put it this way: when they both sprang up around 2010, I immediately said "If Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party can both avoid getting co-opted, they can, should, and will talk," because both began as grass-roots movements by ordinary people with economic concerns; it's just that Occupy focused on private finance capitalism first and the Tea Party focused on government fiscal policy first. But sure enough, within months, the Tea Party was co-opted by establishment social conservatism and completely lost focus, while Occupy Wall Street was co-opted by straight-up anarchists and other general anti-capitalist/pro-communist groups. A great opportunity, on both "sides," to find common ground and really shake up establishment politics was lost.

Rohirrimborn said...

The actor's name portraying the host is Kenan not Keenan as you have it. The only reason this matters to me is that my son's name is Kenan and he gets called Keenan all the time. And no my son wasn't named for the actor. It's a family name.

Richard Dolan said...

"To me, the sketch is too racist to just point at and call funny. It relies on a stereotype of black people."

Well, it's comedy so of course it trades on stereotypes, stock characters and the like. For the comedy to work, the situation has to be familiar enough to the audience to have a view about what makes the stock character a bit ridiculous in whatever situation the author decides to put him.

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

Gosh, I'm so glad we have middle-class white women, with no familiarity with black culture, to tell us that a sketch written by Michael Che (a black man) is racist.

Yancey Ward said...

Ann,

I will make this as simple for you as I can:

It isn't racist because it was Saturday Night Live doing the parody. Think about that.

Yancey Ward said...

Ann,

And it seemed you wanted to know what the message was since it seemed to be sympathetic to Trump supporters, as was thought by a few of the other analyses you quoted. You and they could not have been more wrong. The entire skit, which I thought was hilarious by the way, was a message to black voters who are considering voting for Trump- basically it is saying out loud that it only seems like blacks and Trump and his supporters might have more in common than with Hillary and her white supporters. How one could miss this point, especially given the ending, is a mystery to me.

Saint Croix said...

Thanks so much for linking to this, Althouse!

I think it's a brilliant skit. WaPo agrees.

Let's talk about the ways it is brilliant.

1) Doug never picks the "White People" category. This is an ongoing joke during the Black Jeopardy skits. There is always a White People category, and nobody picks it. Implicitly, the joke is that black people are not interested in white people. But this has special poignancy during this specific skit. Doug not only does well in the game, it doesn't even occur to him that he has special white knowledge of white behavior. Implicitly the idea is that "white people" is not really a category at all. There are too many of us, from too many different ethnic backgrounds, for the "white people" category to work. This made me think of the website Stuff White People Like, which was funny precisely because we're not used to thinking of white people as a distinct ethnic group. Indeed, if Doug had picked the White People category, he might well have missed the questions.

2) Trump voters are not deplorable. Hillary is wrong for calling them deplorable. Implicitly the skit is suggesting that Hillary is racist for calling them deplorable. These white Trump voters are very, very similar to African-American voters. What this skit is suggesting is that Trump voters are honorary black people. That's why he gets high fives. "You are one of us!" There is a unity here. Implicitly a black person voting for Hillary would be voting against self-interest, since Hillary represents the rich white person who is completely out of touch with reality on the ground. That's why this skit is so refreshing and "cathartic." It takes the side of poor whites (i.e. Trump voters) and implicitly skewers the rich Democrats and Republicans who are running things.

3) The skit ends in disarray as Doug is not allowed to say that his life matters, or that white lives matter, or that blue lives matter. Doug has a lot of things to say about race. Nobody wants to hear it! Similarly, Doug has no interest in hearing what black people want to say about race. The implicit thrust of the skit is that race is divisive and ugly. Poor people who should unite cannot unite because race divides them. The "Sorry, Doug" at the end of the skit suggests that Doug will not improve his economic situation, any more than the black contestants will improve their economic situation. At this point you could rename the show, Black and White Jeopardy. Hillary wins the election, and once again black people and poor whites are screwed.

Saint Croix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

To me, the sketch is too racist to just point at and call funny.

As we are reminded on occasion, you can take the Althouse out of Madison, but you can't take the Madison out of Althouse.

Jonathan Graehl said...

surely you don't need this unpacked.

are the sidewalk caricaturists who will exaggerate your hook nose for $5 anti-semites?

no, they are not.

Jonathan Graehl said...

if you're unable to laugh at or hesitate to recommend 'black jeopardy' (which isn't perfect, except for hanks' acting and a few of the verbal surprises), then you might just be an overly deferential white social climber.

Jonathan Graehl said...

a nice meditation, st. croix

pst314 said...

Maybee "Althouse...has told us the story about how in school when black children were being called out for bad behavior, she assumed the teacher was racist."
Would that be this post?
http://althouse.blogspot.com/2012/03/black-students-especially-boys-face.html
It struck me at the time as betraying a lamentable blindness. Black kids get disciplined more because they misbehave more--just as blacks are incarcerated at a higher rate because they offend more (and more extremely.)

Ben said...

Seems like the real lesson they imparted, whether they meant to or not, is that white liberals are the real enemy.

Sonia said...

I think you might be taking the sketch too seriously. In fact, at first I wondered if this was a wry critique on what the liberal reaction might be if SNL were a conservative production. But assuming you meant everything at face value: Well, I found it funny. In a non-mean way. And I confess I sometimes find things funny in a mean way, so I know the difference.

Whether it's fair and logical or not, we have a long tradition of letting comedians make fun of their own groups. Basically, this was black people making fun of black people... and apparently having a good time of it. Stereotypes were invoked, but not especially vicious ones.

And like most people, I thought the message was a breath of fresh air. A delightfully surprising breath of fresh air, since the usual theme of Black Jeopardy is how outsiders don't "get" black people. Wait, we all kinda understand each other? Who knew??! It was a nice break from watching everyone rip each other's heads off.

The punchline about "lives that matter" didn't ruin the good feelings for me. It was just the exclamation point that says: "That's another can of worms, but we won't talk about that right now!" And they didn't, so I think most people got to stay happy.

Walton said...

The TV show Blackish did the same thing. The Grandma profiled as a Trump supporter via an online survey. In fact, I think the joke was that she was Trump. BUT of course she votes for whoever has a D by their name. It was actually insightful.

Saint Croix said...

a nice meditation, st. croix

thanks!

Althouse is officially right. Of course it's racist! Just like dropping an N bomb is racist. There are many black people who love to do that. You can tell them all day how racist it is. Guess what? They like free speech. And I like these free speakers and I am glad we have these free speakers.

I myself do not drop N bombs because my mama raised me not to drop N bombs.

Whether or not you drop an N bomb is a class marker among white people. High class white people never said that word. You'd have to go back to the 19th century. Or at least before I was born. I'm talking about white conversations when no black people are in the room. It was deemed rude, uncouth, bad English, all sorts of markers for low class. I think the first time I said that word was in law school, in a conversation about whether I was allowed to say that word.

The reason that word has power, by the way, is that it references all the atrocities of slavery. Kidnapping, rape, breaking up families, torture, all the deaths on the slave ships. It's why the word "fuck" has power, because it references the dark side of human sexuality. Specifically, sex without consent (rapes and quasi-rapes) and sex without love. In ancient Rome, after the orgy of fucking, most of the women would get pregnant, and then nine months later there would be a round of baby-killing. So that's why these bad words are bad. They reference atrocities.

It's also too serious not to want to talk seriously about. The serious point is something I've heard — mostly from left-wing people — for decades: That what really matters is not race but class.

Althouse nails it here. But note that the same people who say this, also prattle about race all the time. Cornel West needs to watch this skit and reflect on the fact that he says way too much shit about race. Shut up about race, that irrational subject! Of course, Professor West is pretty lame on the economics, too, so I don't know why I'm offering him help.

Anyway, race is an emotional subject. Doug wants to say, "I can't help my skin color, I was born this way!"

I think this skit is beautiful in the way it skewers racialism, both of white people and black people. Doug is mocked for his fears of black people, while the black people are mocked for their ignorance of white people.

We need to get over these fears. This was the theory of integration, right? And yet today many of us still segregate, voluntarily. It's embarrassing but that's what we do. You have to be aware of your fears and make an effort. Doug's poverty makes him get out of his comfort zone and show up on Black Jeopardy. He is so desperate, and he needs the money. That's why he's there.

This skit is a damning criticism of Obama's economy, by the way, and reminds us how much poor people are suffering, how much unemployment and under-employment there is. The media has been hiding this awful economy because they want to protect Obama. They are "sensitive," but only sensitive to the black president, not so much the black (and white) underclass.

Finally, this skit suggests that most poverty is self-induced. You want to do better? Get some training, get some education, and speak English right.