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‘SNL’ explains when it’s OK to wear blackface (literally never)
Saturday Night Live tackled a question on everyone’s mind last night: Was it ever OK to wear blackface? (Spoiler alert: No.)
Leave it to the late-night sketch show to face the scandal as alleged pictures of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s wearing blackface surfaced this week. And leave it to Kenan Thompson to lead the way.
In the viral sketch, Thompson addresses his all-white and mostly male Virginia state governor’s ethics panel to discuss the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, whom he thinks should step down following accusations of sexual assault.
And the group agrees. Everyone in the group seems to be on board.
But before he lets the committee continue he offhandedly brings up another issue.
“OK, one more quick thing before we get out of here,” he tells the group. “As you all know, earlier this week our governor admitted to wearing blackface in college as part of a costume.
“Then later the attorney general also admitted to wearing blackface in college for a costume.” he continues. “It’s extremely embarrassing to the state and as chair of the ethics committee I have to ask, has anybody else worn blackface in college?”
Turns out everyone in the sketch seemed to have worn blackface at some point and assumed their circumstance made their costume OK.
“What if blackface was part of your costume of a black person?” Beck Bennett’s character asks.
Cecily Strong’s character asks if it was OK if you wore it “all the way back in the ’80s.”
Mikey Day’s character responds: “Of course not. It was funny and cool in the ’80s.”
Thompson stops them in their tracks.
“It does still count and it was never funny or cool,” he responds.
Kyle Mooney wonders if it’s OK to dress in blackface to pay homage to a hero.
Thompson seems confused and asks who the hero is.
Al Jolson, he replied. (Jolson was a 20th-century performer known as the king of blackface shows.)
Visiting guest Halsey also played a character who didn’t seem to grasp that it’s never OK to wear blackface, wondering if it’s cool to play Michael Jackson. Needless to say, at the end of the sketch Thompson was exhausted from driving the key point: blackface = never OK.
His only advice for the committee was to “delete any Facebook folder labeled ‘Halloween’ and hope for the best.”
Elizabeth VanMetre is a reporter based in Wyoming. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared on ETOnline, the New York Daily News, Yahoo Travel, and more. She hosts a local morning show in Wyoming.