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SNL’s ‘Black Jeopardy’

A reader points out that Slate’s original headline [1] said, cluelessly, that “Tom Hanks mocks Donald Trump supporters” in this SNL skit. Somebody must have pointed out that this is a really clever sketch. The piece’s writer (N.B., writers typically don’t write their own headlines) saw it otherwise:

Hosted by Kenan Thompson as Darnell Hayes, this 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.

That’s true, but still not quite right. What the piece really shows is that poor and working class folks, both black and white, have more in common than either might have thought.

J.D. Vance alert!

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40 Comments To "SNL’s ‘Black Jeopardy’"

#1 Comment By Joshua On October 24, 2016 @ 8:53 pm

Yes, the original headline was stunningly off the mark. This was a very affectionate and hopeful (after a fashion) send up of where we are.

And the line delivery of “…not a damp thing” was perfect.

#2 Comment By Joshua On October 24, 2016 @ 8:54 pm

Edit: “not a *damn* thing.”

#3 Comment By Pastor Brian On October 24, 2016 @ 9:23 pm

Yup, this was gold. And the last category, “whose lives matter” pointed to the issue that’s keeping the black and white underclass at each other’s throats.

Racial issues stand in the way of a true, healthy, populism. I think the Dems know this, and that’s one reason they fan the flames wherever possible. Then idiots like Trump pour gasoline on the fire.

#4 Comment By Jim On October 24, 2016 @ 9:30 pm

It’s pretty poignant; imagine if the media stopped dividing regular folk with tribal foolishness.

#5 Comment By sjay On October 24, 2016 @ 9:34 pm

Shoot. I just came over from watching the skit again wondering if you had picked up on it. It was great … and the final “return to reality” of Final Jeopardy leaves me laughing uncontrollably each time I watch it.

#6 Comment By Eric On October 24, 2016 @ 9:40 pm

“That’s so ghetto” and redneck jokes have ways been the same

#7 Comment By Randall On October 24, 2016 @ 9:45 pm

I was hoping you’d blog about this! Now, I would love to hear your thoughts on the “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror, which came out this weekend as well.

#8 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On October 24, 2016 @ 10:01 pm

The skit was a riot.

#9 Comment By Chela429 On October 24, 2016 @ 10:03 pm

I saw this and thought of JD Vance. I was wondering if you were going to comment on it.

#10 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 24, 2016 @ 10:11 pm

That’s true, but still not quite right. What the piece really shows is that poor and working class folks, both black and white, have more in common than either might have thought.

YES! With one quibble… “have more in common than either the media or the 501(c)(3)’s would have us believe.”

Greatest SNL piece since Garrett Morris offered for $10 to send any viewer who needed one a certificate “making you an honorary Negro.”

#11 Comment By Michael Guarino On October 24, 2016 @ 11:14 pm

We shouldn’t just leave without comment the fact that Slate was pretty clearly saying that comparing someone to working class black people constitutes mockery. The irony is too good.

#12 Comment By Alan Cross On October 24, 2016 @ 11:38 pm

I thought the same when I saw it. Read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech at the end of the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. He makes the same point and demonstrates how racism/Jim Crow among poor whites toward blacks just doesn’t make sense and is pushed by the Bourbon interests. This theory has been around a long time.

#13 Comment By VikingLS On October 24, 2016 @ 11:43 pm

Yeah this is great, Doug is dead on a guy who used to live behind me in my last neighborhood other than him recoiling from Darnell. Thanks Rod, I saw this going around on FB but wouldn’t have watched it if not for you. You made my night!

#14 Comment By Naturalmom On October 24, 2016 @ 11:58 pm

I thought this was a brilliant sketch. Satire is always mocking to some degree, but this had a gentle edge. It mocked working class black and white culture in equal measure, and was also both affectionate and somewhat hopeful, as Joshua pointed out. I thought the headline was inaccurate and very unfortunate.

#15 Comment By Mike Schilling On October 25, 2016 @ 1:56 am

This was great. When did SNL start being funny again?

#16 Comment By Rebecca On October 25, 2016 @ 2:29 am

When I saw the headline, I was sad, because I thought better of Tom Hanks than that. So glad to see it was inaccurate.

#17 Comment By Global Nomad On October 25, 2016 @ 4:19 am

I cannot believe all the fawning over this skit! People start laughing at the mere mention of the phrase “Black Jeopardy,” as if black people aren’t smart enough to play regular Jeopardy. It’s disgusting.
I’m white, and there are many things I love about black culture. I grew up with a lot of black music and when I got to college I had black friends. But it wasn’t until I went overseas extensively that I really came to appreciate the massive influence black culture had, and has, on what is “America.” So I see a skit like this and I laugh, but in all honesty it makes me a bit uneasy since it seems like a framework for simply making subtle, sneering fun of aspects of black culture that in and of themselves aren’t necessarily intrinsically funny. It feels like the 2016 version of the old step ‘n fetchit routines that were done unconsciously and innocently–without deliberate racism (most of the time) in the 20th C and which later became taboo. I’m tired of these black stereotypes, and I’m tired of seeing them promoted under the guise of comedy, but it begs the question: how can one talk about black or any other culture in a humorous way that is not patronizing or subtlely offensive? To me, upon reflection, this SNL skit just seems like a more polished “acceptable” version of Fox’s Watter’s World: Chinatown Edition that got everyone screaming racism. [2]
Well, was it or wasn’t it? If they are basically the same, and I believe they are, either this is as inherently racist as the other or the Chinatown one was just comedy…

[NFR: The point is to illustrate how being an outsider in this culture, whether black or working-class white, is in part to live with a lot of anxiety about your own prospects. David Brooks writes about this today. — RD]

#18 Comment By JR On October 25, 2016 @ 6:40 am

I believe this was probably quite a thrill for the intended upper class White target audience.

They start to get scared when they realize how much Blacks have in common with poor Whites until the punch line. Then boom, the laughter and release from stress: these people will never team up to take back what we have taken from them.

It’s no secret that the college educated Whites that were once solid Republicans are now going Democrat. You don’t think that the same people who used White Identity Politics to divide working people won’t turn around and use Black Identity Politics to do the same thing?

[NFR: But don’t you see, *that’s the joke*! The point of the conclusion is to show that it’s racial identity that keeps poor and working class blacks and their white counterparts from seeing how much they have in common in terms of class. — RD]

#19 Comment By JohnE_o On October 25, 2016 @ 7:56 am

Note that MLK was assassinated soon after he began the Poor People’s Campaign.

Powerful interests benefit by using racial issues to divide the underclass.

Powerful interests.

#20 Comment By Sam M On October 25, 2016 @ 8:07 am

Pastor Brian is right to point to the Final Jeopardy question. That was brilliant. Is Doug an idiot for needlessly questioning the BLM orthodoxy when doing so will alienate potential allies?? Or were the black people idiots for casting out a potential ally for simply questioning some intentionally aggressive and exclusive rhetoric?

Yes.

#21 Comment By Doug W On October 25, 2016 @ 9:06 am

Reminds me of this Venn Diagram that was making the rounds a few years ago:

[3]

If we could just get past the tribal dislike of the others, we might just accomplish something.

#22 Comment By Helen On October 25, 2016 @ 10:21 am

Randall said: Now, I would love to hear your thoughts on the “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror, which came out this weekend as well.

Gah! No. That episode was about euthanasia, uploading one’s consciousness to the cloud upon death, and a lesbian wedding. We know what Rod thinks about this episode. Rod probably knows what he thinks about it without seeing it!

I want Rod to watch “Hated in the Nation” and “Shut Up and Dance” from this season (season 3) and “15 Million Merits” from season 1. You really should check out Black Mirror, Rod. The “San Junipero” episode not withstanding, it’s a very provocative series about how technology exacerbates the worst in human nature. Each episode stands alone, so you are not locked into the whole show.

#23 Comment By sjay On October 25, 2016 @ 11:30 am

Of course, we don’t know what Doug’s answer (or those of his fellow contestants) is going to be, but like him and his fellow contestants and the host, we think we do and we anticipate the worst, just as everyone had been all along.

#24 Comment By Jesse On October 25, 2016 @ 11:54 am

Jamelle Bouie had a great article on this –

[4]

“It’s not that working blacks and working whites are unable to see the things they have in common; it’s that the material interests of the former—freedom from unfair scrutiny, unfair detention, and unjust killings—are in direct tension with the identity politics of the latter (as represented in the sketch by the Trump hat). And in fact, if Hanks’ character is a Trump supporter, then all the personal goodwill in the world doesn’t change the fact that his political preferences are a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods of his new friends, a fact they recognize.

Now, this sketch isn’t some exercise in didacticism. It’s genuinely funny with great performances from everyone involved. But it does make a firm statement about our political world: that racism is a huge obstacle to a kind of class solidarity. And that, as long as real-life Dougs hold on to their identity politics, that obstacle will remain.”

[NFR: How blind is Jamelle Bouie? Good grief. Black identity politics are toxic too! — RD]

#25 Comment By RinTX On October 25, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

[NFR: But don’t you see, *that’s the joke*! The point of the conclusion is to show that it’s racial identity that keeps poor and working class blacks and their white counterparts from seeing how much they have in common in terms of class. — RD]

I’m not a Bernie supporter, so I wasn’t following him really closely, but didn’t he try to make that exact point? If I remember right, he was pilloried by the BLM folks for saying that.

#26 Comment By Console On October 25, 2016 @ 12:39 pm

“Black identity politics are toxic too! ”

Black identity politics didn’t force white people to pick the “mexicans are drug dealers and rapists/ban all muslims” guy as their mascot. If black identity politics are so toxic, then how does the left maintain such a diverse coalition? There must be something about the themes espoused by black identity politics that resonates with other demographic groups. If conservatives can crack that code, they can win nationally again.

#27 Comment By John On October 25, 2016 @ 12:42 pm

That was the best political skit on the show. I liked it exactly because it showed how much working people of all races have in common.

Why any idiot would ghink this was designed to mock Trump blue collar voters is besides me.

#28 Comment By Loudon is a Fool On October 25, 2016 @ 1:14 pm

here must be something about the themes espoused by black identity politics that resonates with other demographic groups.

Except the theme is minority identity politics (specifically affirmative action). It’s a two fer for the Banksters. It keeps whites out of the Democratic party (affirmative action is contrary to their interests) and it keeps the minorities in (those other guys are against affirmative action, they must be racist). If the Democrats appealed to whites they might actually elect a populist. That would be a disaster. If the GOP appealed to workers (assuming it’s possible to do so and circumvent the issue of affirmative action completely), it might elect a populist. Again, a disaster.

#29 Comment By VikingLs On October 25, 2016 @ 1:55 pm

“Black identity politics didn’t force white people to pick the “mexicans are drug dealers and rapists/ban all muslims” guy as their mascot. ”

Oh give it a rest.

This country is full of white people who are about to vote AGAINST that guy.

Trump is not a magic word you can say and suddenly win your argument.

#30 Comment By RinTX On October 25, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

If a populist candidate came along that was able to speak to both the black urban poor/working class and the white rural poor/working class, (without alienating either), it seems that would be a formidable voting block. I wonder if it would be formidable enough to get that populist candidate the White House.

Stated a different way, is racial identity politics the only thing that is preventing a truly populist candidate from being able to win a presidential election?

#31 Comment By Hyperion On October 25, 2016 @ 2:43 pm

Vance was interviewed by Brian Lamb this week on CSPAN. A complicated and nuanced guy. I don’t think Lamb really gets him. Some of Lamb’s questions were strange but Vance never let on if he thought so.

#32 Comment By Courtney On October 25, 2016 @ 3:04 pm

I’m so glad you posted about this! This skit was really on point, not to mention right up your alley.

#33 Comment By Michael Guarino On October 25, 2016 @ 3:20 pm

[NFR: How blind is Jamelle Bouie? Good grief. Black identity politics are toxic too! — RD]

You could even point to the portion of the skit where the characters lost any sense of common interests: when the touchstone cause of racial politics was brought up.

#34 Comment By Jesse On October 25, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

“If a populist candidate came along that was able to speak to both the black urban poor/working class and the white rural poor/working class, (without alienating either), it seems that would be a formidable voting block. I wonder if it would be formidable enough to get that populist candidate the White House.

Stated a different way, is racial identity politics the only thing that is preventing a truly populist candidate from being able to win a presidential election?”

As LBJ said, “I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

#35 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 25, 2016 @ 4:44 pm

He makes the same point and demonstrates how racism/Jim Crow among poor whites toward blacks just doesn’t make sense and is pushed by the Bourbon interests. This theory has been around a long time.

The theory has been around for a long time, because the facts underpinning the theory have been dominant on the ground for a long time.

Global Nomad: Ask a few black friends if they find it funny… and if they do, then calm down.

NFR: But don’t you see, *that’s the joke*!

Thank you.

I wonder if it would be formidable enough to get that populist candidate the White House.

Well, the original People’s Party was coming on strong enough that the Dems and the GOP changed the election laws to enshrine the “Two Party System,” the Dems nominated a faux Populist, and in Lousiana, the Bourbons shamelessly recorded all the black votes for the Establishment, boasting that “white supremacy was saved by Negro votes.” So you might say the elites are scared that such a populist COULD win the White House.

#36 Comment By John On October 25, 2016 @ 5:58 pm

Well that may depend on the issues which said populist ran on. Donald Trump is said to be a populist but I see only two issues where he takes their side – illegal immigration and trade. Aside from that his economic policies are right in there with corporate-owned America with tax cuts for the rich and well, an inconsistent message on things like the minimum wsge.

So we’ll have to see if a populist who never mentions race, but takes Bernie Sander’s economic positions and Trump’s illegal immigration position can win.

#37 Comment By VikingLS On October 25, 2016 @ 11:17 pm

On another note, this is weird to say about Youtube, but the comments under the video are really pretty good.

#38 Comment By Anonne On October 25, 2016 @ 11:18 pm

Black identity politics are toxic too!

If you mean the politics of not being black enough to do X, Y or Z then I may agree. Otherwise, such a statement sounds like a false equivalence.

#39 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 26, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

Black Matter Lives.

#40 Comment By Darnell On October 29, 2016 @ 5:34 pm

It was funny but I was somewhat offended. My middle name is Darnell and I am white.