Saturday Night Live writer Leslie Jones’ recent on-air appearance on the iconic sketch show has sparked outrage among those who have argued that when it comes to comedy, certain topics should be off-limits, including slavery—the subject of Jones’ remarks.
In case you missed it, she did a bit Saturday night describing how, as a taller black woman, she might have had more “dating” opportunities during slavery because she’d have been paired up with (read: forced to pair with) any number of black (or white) men to produce a “super baby.”
But what’s interesting, to me, is that no one seemed to have much of a problem when Chris Rock told what I consider to be one of his funniest routines ever—also having to do with slavery. I can’t do it justice, but you can take a look and decide for yourself:
I laugh every time I think of him telling it, and I know I’m not alone, and I don’t recall anyone demanding an apology.
He also made light of the fact that slaves were “bred” with each other to create “super slaves,” which Rock claims has resulted in the “NFL.” In other words, the substance of his joke is very similar to the substance of Jones’.
So why is Jones being held to a double standard? For starters, Twitter didn’t exist when Rock first did his routine. Jones, on the other hand, is unfortunately the latest victim of modern-day media’s most predictable story arc, consisting of the following stages:
Step 1: Someone says or does something that someone believes is offensive.
Step 2: People who may find it legitimately offensive say so on social media.
Step 3: People who have no idea why it is or isn’t offensive chime in because everyone else is, and because doing so may be a reliable way to increase their own Twitter following.