That Time Tom Hanks Almost Solved Racism

There’s a Saturday Night Live sketch that I saw in 2016 and have never forgotten. I remember commenting at the time to a friend of mine…words to the effect of “if Americans get a hold on what that sketch really means, it will change the political landscape of this country.”

I have no idea if the writers meant it to be as profound as it really is, or if it was just a felicitous albeit accidental moment of truth in an industry not accustomed to such.

Whatever the case, it caused me to think. And it’s not just me. It has also stuck in the mind of a liberal pundit I follow on Twitter:

You can see the sketch at the link above. For those who are unable or unwilling to watch (this is SNL, salty language abounds), here is a brief synopsis:

The scene opens with the familiar game-show theme music, and an announcer intones “This is Black Jeopardy!” The talented Kenan Thompson appears as host Darnell Hayes, and welcomes viewers to “the only TV game show where the audience is in church clothes.” Then the guests are introduced, two black women, Keeley and Shanice, and one one white guy named Doug – a real “redneck”, complete with red MAGA hat, brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hanks

The host expresses surprise that Doug would want to be on a show called “Black Jeopardy”, but Doug replies that he had heard he could make some money, so “let’s git ‘er done!” With that the categories are introduced, all of which have to do with some humorous aspect of African-American culture.

As the game begins, Doug correctly answers a surprising number of questions. To a question about fingerprint ID on cell phones, he answers “What is, I don’t think so, that’s how they get you,” to a chorus of surprised agreement from the other participants. This kind of thing keeps going until Doug is dominating the game. The whole thing is very well done. Thompson and Hanks play very well off of each other. I still nearly lose it every time I hear “Doug” say “you know, my wife…she’s a sturdy gal…”

By the end of the game, the host and even the other two players are cheering for Doug, who is also clearly enjoying himself. Just before going to “Final Jeopardy”, the host says “Doug, I have to say, it has been a pleasure.” “Right back atcha, my bah-rother” Doug replies.

Then, the category for “Final Jeopardy” is announced, and it is “Lives that Matter”.

There is an uncomfortable silence on the set, after which the host says “Well, it was good while it lasted, Doug.”

In the four years that have passed since this skit was originally aired, the conflicts between “BLM” and “MAGA” have only increased. Every time there is a new incident, every time new riots break out, every time innocent bystanders are killed, my mind goes back to this SNL sketch.

As my thinking has evolved, I have developed three main takeaways.

If we step away from the major news networks and social media, we will find that there is more that unites us than divides us.

Like “Doug” and his fellow contestants, we are all trying to figure out how to skimp to make it to our next paycheck.  A large portion of us are concerned about government overreach and are at least a little suspicious of how technology is invading our private lives. We’re perplexed about the breakdown of once-sacred social mores, and at the same time enjoy many of the same forms of entertainment.

Working, as I do, in a foreign country, people’s reaction to me is usually reserved and standoffish at first.  I have found that the best thing to do is to establish some point of common interest, at which point the barriers start to come down and friendships can be formed. Culturally, I believe we need to do the same thing. “Doug” and “Darnell” need to sit down in coffee shops all over America and talk about their lives. If that could happen, it might just make us see how much we really like each other.

Black Lives Matter is a slogan designed to bring division, not reconciliation.

I rather doubt that this was what the SNL writers wanted to communicate, but they did so nevertheless, and it is glorious. In the skit, a feeling of acceptance, commonality, and mutual admiration is destroyed by the introduction of the category “Lives that Matter”. An emerging friendship is replaced by suspicion and hard feelings.

Whether or not the writers intended it this way, there can be no doubt that the admittedly Marxist founders of the BLM movement did. The slogan’s very meaning is divisive, for it forces one to either jump wholeheartedly on to the BLM movement bandwagon, or else forever be branded as a racist. “What? You don’t think black lives matter? You’re a horrible person!”

This is by design. And as I have stated elsewhere, the farthest thing from the minds of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement is black lives and how they matter. Rather, it is a political gambit designed to divide the country along racial lines – and it appears to be working.

The only real solution is Christ.

I guarantee you that the SNL writers were not thinking about the Gospel as they wrote their script. But in the end, it becomes conspicuous by its absence. Take, for example, the last line of the skit. As the scene fades, the host says “When we come back, we’ll just play the national anthem and see what the #$%” happens.” The implication, of course, is that there will be two very different reactions to something that should unite all Americans – The Star Spangled Banner.

So then…if we can no longer agree on “Oh say can you see”, what kind of hope exists for any kind of reconciliation?

The answer, simple and yet profound, is Christ. The Apostle Paul elaborates in Colossians 3:8-11.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,  where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

The only true solution to the anger, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, and lies that permeate our “national conversation” is for individuals to be conformed to image of God in Christ, at which point all the artificial divisions of race, tradition, class, or economic situation melt away.

This is the major reason I give the “side-eye” to self-proclaimed Christians who unite themselves with the BLM movement. We have Christ. That is the banner we should be carrying. He is the one who will unite “Doug” and “Darnell” in perfect fellowship.

Everything else is just virtue signaling.

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