‘SNL’ Slammed For Sketch Mocking Black Vaccine Hesitancy
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Daniel Kaluuya" Episode 1801 -- Pictured: (l-r) Host Daniel Kaluuya and Heidi Gardner during the "Doctor Game Show" sketch on Saturday, April 3, 2021
Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Though the subject of race was a central component to last weekend’s episode of “Saturday Night Live,” some people have reacted harshly to a particular sketch that mocked vaccine hesitancy in the black community.

Hosted by two-time Academy Award-nominee Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out,” “Sicario”), one sketch featured the actor playing a doctor on a game show titled “Will You Take It?” that offered black contestants a hefty financial award if they agreed to one thing: Taking the COVID-19 vaccine. As the sketch unfolded, nobody seemed willing to take it, despite the great rewards. As Fox News reported:

In the sketch, Kaluuya’s character begins by offering his four family members $500 to simply take the vaccine. As the sketch goes on, the total eventually reaches $20,000 but it is never enough to dampen his family member’s hesitancy to take the vaccine despite close to 100 million people in the U.S. having been administered the dose. 

One family member notes that he’ll start doing it when White people start taking the shot. When he is informed that many people have been given the shot, he paradoxically notes “you can’t trust White people.” 

The character’s aunt turns down a dose because she says she read on Facebook that Christians can’t take the vaccine. Meanwhile, another relative reveals that he would do several non-coronavirus-friendly things like large gatherings if he won the prize money, but still refused to take the vaccine despite being extremely high-risk. 

Several doctors on Twitter immediately took to Twitter to voice their displeasure over the sketch, particularly with how it failed to address the nuances regarding vaccine hesitancy in the African-American community.

“No. No. No. @nbcsnl, how did this skit even make it on air? It’s deeply problematic – making fun of Black folks declining the vaccine, esp without any context – past and ongoing racism within and outside healthcare institutions. You all should know better by now,” wrote Uche Blackstock, MD. 

“This s*%t aint funny, @nbcsnl Playing on stereotypes and generalizations is a dangerous game especially when 75,000 Black lives lives have been lost to #COVID19,” wrote Benjamin Thomas, MD. “Polls show that over 80% of black people want the shot. Vaccine Access >>> Vaccine Hesitancy.”

“Although I‘ve enjoyed many @nbcsnl skits and these actors, this one got under my skin and I’m really disappointed. This skit is irresponsible as it further perpetuates vaccine disparities as being due to Black Americans being ignorant for a good laugh and portrays black healthcare providers as manipulative. The more I think about it, the more my stomach turns,” tweeted Krys Foster, MD.

This past December, former Trump administration Surgeon General Jerome Adams cautioned that black Americans have a distrust of the COVID-19 vaccine due to America’s history of medical racism, using them as guinea pigs in health experiments.

“I know that long before COVID, there were many diseases ― hypertension, cancer, diabetes ― that were plaguing communities of color,” Adams said on “Face the Nation.” “And COVID just unveiled those disparities that have been around for a long time.”

“I’ve talked previously about the history of the mistreatment of communities of color,” he added. “The Tuskegee experiment, the terrible treatment of Henrietta Lacks and her family and how they just took her cells without her permission.”

Adams also understood the significance of his being a black surgeon general in light of how the position had been abused in the past.

“It actually comes from my office, several surgeons general oversaw for 40 years the Tuskegee studies where treatment was denied to Black men,” he said. “And I walk past their pictures every single day when I go into my office. So believe you me, this legacy is important to me, and helping restore that trust is important.”

“What I want to tell people most of all is: I walk the talk. I got vaccinated on Friday. I actually feel great. My mother-in-law and my mother are watching, and they’ve been asking me all weekend, ‘How are you feeling?’ I feel great,” he added. “And I hope people will get the vaccine based on information that they get from trusted resources. Because it’s OK to have questions. What’s not OK is to make poor health decisions based on misinformation.”

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