I watched a Saturday Night Live skit yesterday that has been trending for a few days now. The skit (possibly even more popular than the debate skits with Alec Baldwin and his much-too-accurate Donald Trump impression) was an episode of “Black Jeopardy.” I don’t regularly watch SNL, but from my understanding, “Black Jeopardy”, featuring Darnell Hayes (Kenan Thompson) as the host, is a skit in which Black people play Jeopardy, answering questions that play on stereotypes in the Black community. Some stereotypes that stood out to me were Black people’s inability to properly manage money, when a contestant elected to buy scratch-offs instead of placing her money into a 401K, as well as Black people’s love for the character “Madea.”
This particular episode featured Tom Hanks, an acclaimed actor and director, often described as the “nicest guy in Hollywood.” Hanks, sporting a “Make America Great Again” cap played a rural, presumably lower-class white guy named Doug. It was clear to me within the first two minutes of the show that this skit was an attempt by SNL to show how Blacks and non-elite whites are connected in more ways than they may think. This is a concept I briefly touched upon in my earliest blog post when I explained the three-tiered caste system in America, established at the very beginning of slavery. Elite whites are at the top tier, followed by poor whites, and Blacks, no matter the status are at the bottom.
This system is what separated indentured servitude from slavery—poor whites, though facing some form of oppression, were separated from their alliances formed with Blacks after Bacon’s Rebellion in order to further empower the elite whites and to ensure no further alliances were formed against them. Poor whites were reminded of their superior advantage over Blacks solely based on their skin color and non-African roots. Though the elite whites made them work for free and moved them to the mountains so they could have the rich land all to themselves, poor whites still considered Blacks to be the enemy. We see this same thing occurring in present times.
The host and contestants were initially very unwelcoming toward Doug until he answered a question that seemed to “unify” everyone on the show. In the category “They out here saying”, the answer was “The new iPhone wants your thumbprint ‘for your protection’”. In a mumbled southern drawl, Doug answered “I don’t think so; that’s how they get ‘ya.” The host, Darnell Hayes, seemed shocked that he and Doug, a white man wearing a Trump hat, could possibly share the same sentiment about conspiracies and hidden government agendas. Doug then goes on to explain how he purchased the Madea box set at Walmart because he loves movies where he can “laugh and pray in 90 minutes.” A little later in the show, Doug and Darnell bond over the fact that they both have a “guy” that fixes everything for a discount. Then, Doug slipped up and said “you people”, but immediately gets a “pass”, presumably because he racked up enough cool points—how accurate! The show ends with a new category, “Lives That Matter”. Everyone looks sternly at Doug, and Darnell comments, “Well it was good while it lasted, Doug.”
I can see why this skit has gained so much popularity. In six minutes, SNL was able to accurately explain the complicated relationship between Blacks and poor whites in America. The stereotypes between the two are extremely similar, and it shows that, while Blacks and whites in America are able to get along, race is one topic that will always divide us. No matter how poorly white Americans are treated by the white elite, they will still support their agendas, agendas that may not even serve them, while completely separating themselves from Blacks and our agendas, such as Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and the boycott of the National Anthem. It is clear that the three-tiered caste system in America isn’t going anywhere.