Leslie Jones, a newly hired writer on "Saturday Night Live," made her on-screen debut last week, appearing on the show’s popular “Weekend Update” segment. Jones, a comedian and one of two newly hired African American writers, appeared in an SNL sketch about slavery, igniting a social media firestorm. Jones seemed to slough off the brutality of slavery, igniting an online backlash which she then also attacked, shares the Washington Post on May 5.
Introduced by Weekend Update host Colin Jost as an “in-house image expert,” Jones started the bit by rolling out her congratulations to Lupita Nyong’o on winning People magazine’s “Most Beautiful Person” award. Jones then said there should be a “Most Useful” person category, which she would win. Calling Jost a “delectable Caucasian,” she asked him who he would pick if Jost saw her and Nyong’o at a bar.
“I know, you would pick Lupita. But let me ask you this. If you’s was in a parking lot, and three Crips is about to whip you ass, who you gonna pick then?” the 39-year-old comedian asks. After Jost says he would then forcibly pick her, Jones said:
And that’s my point. The way we view black beauty has changed. See, I’m single right now, but back in the slave days, I would have never been single. I’m six feet tall and I’m strong, Colin. Strong! I mean, look at me, I’m a mandingo!
Of the “mandingo” designation, the Washington Post writes: “Jones actually referred to herself as a mandingo, a term that already has a reputation as a lexical landmine when used to describe black men, but takes on a particularly pejorative distinction because black women have struggled to assert and define not just their humanity, but their femininity.” Jost then asks Jones to clarify if she would rather be a slave. She replied no, and that she doesn’t even “like working for you white people right now, and you all pay me.” She goes on to say:
I’m just saying that back in the slave days, my love life would have been way better. Massah would have hooked me up with the best brotha on the plantation and every nine months I be in the corner having a super baby… I would be the No. 1 slave draft pick… I would be on television like LeBron [James of the NBA] announcing what plantation I want to go to. Now, I can’t even get a brotha to take me out for a cheap dinner. I mean, damn. Can a b—– get a beef bowl?
After her controversial commentary aired, Twitter immediately lit up with outrage. In a single swoop, some said Jones set back the African American race by mocking the viciousness of slavery. Jones responded on Twitter however, refusing to back down from her contentious comments, calling her critics “self righteous.” Though it was comedy, Jones wrote the bit herself.
Ebony.com editor Jamilah Lemieux tweeted her disgust: “This Leslie Jones person is an embarrassment ... I’m so appalled right now.”
“If anybody should be offended it’s white folks cause it’s what they did,” Jones tweeted back, later adding: “Y’all so busy trying to be self righteous you miss what the joke really is. Very sad I have to defend myself to black people.”
But Lemieux wasn’t appeased and continued her Twitter assault: “So the Lupita moment had to be counteracted by a Black woman acting like a big loud monkey? Just ... wow,” she wrote. Later, Lemieux took her outrage to Ebony.com where she berated Jones in an opinion piece, writing that “skinfolk ain’t always your kinfolk. This time, it’s a grossly offensive skit about slave rape that’s got many of us shaking our heads.”
But Jones continued to fire back, accusing her critics of a double standard when it comes to male versus female comics and controversial topics. “Now I’m betting if Chris Rock or Dave (Chappelle) did that joke or Jay Z or Kanye put it in a rap they would be called brilliant,” she wrote. “Cause they all do this type of material. Just because it came from a strong black woman who ain’t afraid to be real y’all mad.”
When Examiner reached out to “SNL” officials, they declined to comment on the sketch or the resulting backlash it caused. According to the Washington Post, Jones was one of three black women hired by SNL recently after the show, now nearing 40 years on air, was criticized for its lack of racial diversity.
Jones may have a point. One of the most famous examples is a bit from Chris Rock’s “Never Scared,” show, which turns 10 years old this year:
“During slavery, they used to take the biggest, strongest slaves and breed them, and try their best to make big strong super slaves,” Rock said. “Okay? That’s right. That’s right. And there’s evidence of that today, like the NFL, for instance. NFL stands for ‘N— F—— Large.’ They bred the slaves, and this is why black people dominate every physical activity in the United States of America, okay. We’re only 10 percent of the population. We’re 90 percent of the Final Four, okay? We f—— dominate … basketball, baseball, football, boxing, track, even golf and tennis. And as soon as they make a heated hockey rink, we gonna take that s—, too.”
The NY Daily News carried the full segment of Jones on SNL, via Hulu.
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