You Do Not Get to Compare the Suspension of a Comedy Writer to the Death of a Black Man
On the day that Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States, Katie Rich, a writer for Saturday Night Live, tweeted this about Trump’s 10-year-old son, Barron:
Bekka wrote about this tweet, as well as the resulting fallout, including Rich being suspended and her Twitter account going private. And I agree with much of what Bekka wrote. Unless Barron was exhibiting some We Need To Talk About Kevin-type tendencies, there is no reason to ever say such a thing about Barron. He’s ten years old, and he hasn’t said or done anything to be painted with the same brush as the rest of the Trump family, nor deserving of the same horrible treatment that Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and Chelsea Clinton received for many years.
Some people on Twitter couldn’t believe that Rich was suspended over this:
Katie Rich should have never tweeted that joke. She should have said it on an Access Hollywood bus. Then no one would care.— Dan Wilbur (@DanWilbur) January 23, 2017
SNL writer tweets bad joke about president's kid & she's fired. Pageant owner watches teen contestants undress & he's elected president.— Danny Zuker (@DannyZuker) January 23, 2017
SNL writer suspended for a tweet. But come on & host the show Trump! And dudes personal blogs about how harassment isn't real, stay a while!— JEN KIRKMAN (@JenKirkman) January 23, 2017
This is infuriating. It was a joke. Whoever at NBC made this decision: you're a GIANT pussy. https://t.co/mQh9zEMX8o— Nikki Glaser (@NikkiGlaser) January 23, 2017
I'm encouraged to see that we hold writers of comedy sketch shows more accountable than people we want to run the world.— Josh Spiegel (@mousterpiece) January 23, 2017
Haha, sorry, I meant "disgusted," not "encouraged."— Josh Spiegel (@mousterpiece) January 23, 2017
I, for one, will feel very proud that a woman who told a mean joke will be suspended from her job when Trump takes away healthcare.— Josh Spiegel (@mousterpiece) January 23, 2017
if people were as offended by lies as they are by jokes we'd have a different President.— Morgan Murphy (@morgan_murphy) January 24, 2017
Robby Slowik, a comedian/writer who has been hired to work on Jon Stewart’s new series for HBO, made it clear how angry he was over Katie Rich’s suspension, and he used his own Twitter account to express that anger.
An SNL writer made a joke people didn't like. She got suspended & may be fired. The cop who killed Eric Garner got a pay raise in September.— Robby Slowik (@RobbySlowik) January 23, 2017
In July of 2014, Eric Garner was a 43-year-old African-American man who was being placed under arrest by Staten Island police officers for selling loose cigarettes (or ‘loosies’). As the officers approached him and attempted to handcuff him, Garner held his hands up and asked the officers to not touch him. The officers moved in on him and while trying to handcuff Garner, placed him in a chokehold, which caused Garner to repeatedly tell the officers that he couldn’t breathe, even as he was being lowered face-down onto the sidewalk. No attempts at CPR were used on Garner, not by the officers or by the paramedics, as they believed that he was still able to breathe, therefore making CPR unnecessary. Eric Garner was pronounced dead an hour later from, according to the medical examiner, “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”
(There is accompanying video footage from a bystander’s cell-phone camera of the officers arresting Eric Garner and applying the chokehold that led to his death, but you’ll have to look elsewhere to see it, because you won’t find it here)
As a few people pointed out, Slowik didn’t express his anger particularly well.
@RobbySlowik using a black person's death to make a point about someone losing a paycheck is some white nonsense— Ira Madison III (@ira) January 24, 2017
@RobbySlowik so to make your point you use a murdered black man. When does this joke get funny?— Latinarants (@latinarants) January 24, 2017
@RobbySlowik this was in poor taste both to Mr. Garner and to young Trump. False equivalence— Latinarants (@latinarants) January 24, 2017
@RobbySlowik As a fellow white person, WHY are you invoking trauma against Black people and equating it to a comedy writer getting fired?— Wicked Annie #NoDAPL (@fangirlsmash) January 24, 2017
@RobbySlowik Because this is disgustingly, repulsively insensitive AT BEST. You do not get to retraumatize Black people to make a point.— Wicked Annie #NoDAPL (@fangirlsmash) January 24, 2017
.@RobbySlowik The murder of Eric Garner is not yours to use to whine about a comedian writer for SNL getting fined.— Wicked Annie #NoDAPL (@fangirlsmash) January 24, 2017
In one corner, we have a White female comedy writer suspended from her job because of a questionable joke that was made about the 10-year-old son of our current President. In the other corner, we have a Black man who was assaulted and choked to death by police officers for the unforgivable sin of selling cigarettes and for resisting arrest in the form of asking that he not be touched.
Comparing Katie Rich’s suspension to Eric Garner’s death and the minimal punishment received by the officers responsible for it makes little to no sense and appears as if such a comparison is only being made because your feelings as a comedian have been hurt, and that you once again feel as if comedy is all about expression and free speech and numerous variations of “You just don’t get it.”
There are many people right now who are understandably worried and infuriated about who is sitting in the Oval Office and about all of the things that this country and its citizens will have to deal with during the next four years. They are worried and infuriated about the fact that the person sitting in the Oval Office is someone who has abused, assaulted, and disrespected women … someone who has shown little to no respect or empathy or compassion for anyone who isn’t a White man, and someone who was never punished for his contemptible behavior but was instead rewarded with the Presidency. But despite how angry people are, using the pain and suffering of Black people or any other minority to make your point can and will make other people ask if you regularly speak out against the pain and suffering of Black people or any other minority on a regular basis…if you were and still are just as angry and outspoken about Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, and countless others and want to see justice done, or if you’re only doing so because it will get you the attention that you want to make your point. Much like how there are people who always love to go the “What about the Black-on-Black crime in Chicago?” route to try to shut Black people up whenever Black Lives Matter is being discussed or when any other discussion about police misconduct is taking place.
And if you can’t say yes to any of that … then you need to ask yourself why that is. And accept the fact that you deserve to be held accountable and called out for treating the life and death of a Black man as nothing more than an anecdote to make your point.