I didn’t want to write about this. God, I didn’t want to write about this.
I think Leslie Jones is smart and talented, and if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t have gotten the job at SNL. I think we all can agree that slave “breeding” does not equal romantic love, it is rape. I think we can all agree that the audience for SNL on a weekend hosted by the guy who plays Spiderman was likely not too terribly diverse. And I think we can all agree that the fall out has been immense.
My only point to add to this, is that a lot of my body image and self worth problems growing up are attributed to the thinking that accompanies a joke like this; The whole, “Big Black Girls Are Ugly/Undesirable/Unlovable” schtick.Typically it is not someone who looks like me saying these things or thinking these things, which is why I think Leslie’s bit cut so much deeper.
Even today, I have a hard time not seeing myself that way—as a big Black Undesirable Woman—because society tells us that all Black women are Big Black Ugly Undesirable women. It’s not true, it’s not fair, and I’m really tired of it. I’m 5’4” (far from big), I’m kind, I’m smart, and I am not ugly, but there is a damaging stereotype here that informs a lot of the same thinking as, “It’s not that I’m racist, I just don’t date Black girls.” OR “You’re really pretty for a Black girl” because in her joke, she’s made Lupita the exception. Lupita has been accepted by White people as attractive. She’s gotten her pass. Do you want Lupita? Or do you want me?
So it was just so disappointing and so uncomfortable for a Black woman to repeat that sentiment back to me. This is why I fight for more versions of Black women in popular culture. Why Kerry Washington playing a delicate woman who is smart and sensitive and in control is so important. Why the movie Belle that was just released is so critically important. Why challenging the stigma that somehow Black women are naturally undesirable is so massively important.
The joke didn’t land with Black people because her stereotypes about being the big Black scary thing in the room is not new to us. And saying it to an audience that is predisposed to agreeing with you feels mean and thoughtless.
I’m not tearing Leslie Jones down by saying this, I am building up Black women.