Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
SNL’s Latest “Scandal”
Did you watch Saturday Night Live this weekend? Emmy nominee, Kerry Washington, star of the hit ABC show “Scandal” was the host and she and the cast seemed to kick off quite the firestorm.
If you missed it, let me catch you up. Saturday Night Live has faced criticism in recent seasons for its lack of diversity. No Latino males, no Asian-Americans at all, and too few black females as members of the normal cast lineup. SNL poked a little fun at itself by having Ms. Washington play a variety of black female characters in the same skit. The show’s writers even created a tongue-in-cheek scroll apologizing for the number of black female characters she was going to play during the show. Take a look:
While many people thought the show opener was funny, others shouted for action, cast additions, and wanted to the show to be sincere in its apology. Now, I rarely jump into the issue of political correctness, since much of that concept is subject to an individual’s personal preference. However, this show has prompted me to share my own perspective.
Having worked with a number of corporations and nonprofits on the issue of diversity, awareness, sensitivity, cultural competency and cross-cultural communications, I feel very confident in saying, those who took the skit as personally offensive, should take a moment to take a few steps back and look at the bigger implication and message. Companies and organizations who are aware of their lack of diversity and have no interest in changing their demographics to reflect the community they serve, never make jokes about it. They don’t want to have the public microscope on their initiative and results. In fact, they typically do the opposite. They make a variety of platitudes talking about how much they value diversity and its importance in the workplace. They repeat their commitment to diversity as something they know will happen “organically” since the country is becoming more diverse. They’re slow to share their progress, but quick to boast their intent.
SNL made the self-deprecating joke because the issue is real. They haven’t made a conscious effort to recruit a diverse slate of talent, and they admitted it in their skit. I’m not a huge betting person, but I feel pretty confident that when I turn on the show next season, there will be a black female in the cast. I start there, because that’s the group to which the viewers are calling the most attention. If Latinos and Asians rallied their voices, we’d see a constant addition of cast members to reach the ever-changing market.
I say this in every diversity workshop I lead, inclusion is a conscious effort and requires deliberate action. A lack of said action doesn’t always mean racism is present, it just means people are taking the easier path of least resistance. SNL’s willingness to poke fun at itself with as much honesty as they do public figures is likely an indication someone is out beating the pavement to recruit diverse talent. Remember the show is all about satire and jokes. To publicly make a straight-faced declaration would go against everything we know about the show.
Before you scream racism, sexism or any other –ism, take two steps back and look at intent, deeper meaning behind actions, and ultimately the results. When you hear platitudes without specific action steps, or results, then feel free to sound the alarm. If we can help breathe new life into your diversity initiative so there are results, and not just words, contact us!
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