It goes without saying that Donald Trump being anywhere near a highly popular show like Saturday Night Live would cause friction, particularly after his horrifying statements on Mexicans during the early part of his campaign. The statements caused him to get fired from NBC. But NBC basically recanted on their stance against racist and discriminatory speech by allowing him to come back to host Saturday Night Live. But that’s not the only way the show mocked the anger many Latinos have towards Trump for his prior statements.
NBC not reneging on their decision to have Trump host would have sent an exclamatory statement about the network’s seriousness about racist speech and viewpoints. But not only did they follow through with their decision to let Trump host, they also made light of controversy by having Larry David yell “Donald Trump is a racist.” When Trump asks who heckled him, the camera cuts to David, who jokes that he was told he’d be given $5000 if he yelled at Trump.
The moment is supposed to be an innocent stab at the controversy surrounding Trump’s statements, but what that joke really does is insidiously make fun of the activists and protesters who have been fighting against Trump’s rhetoric for months and were outside of the theater at the moment the show was being filmed. The joke is saying that sure, there might be some folks who are mad, but their anger isn’t anything important. It’s something to make light of from an insulated position.
The reality is that there’s a lot to heckle Trump about. If you need to be reminded of what Trump said:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime, They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Trump’s statements work on the Latino stereotype that’s found in society and pervades America’s thinking and creativity, since it’s also in many TV shows, books, and movies. Similar to how the “lazy” stereotype had been (and depending on the person, still is) applied by black Americans to justify slavery, Latinos, specifically Hispanics, are stereotyped as “lazy” to justify the war over Mexico in the 1800s. To quote brown-face.com:
Hispanics have been portrayed by the media as lazy, unintelligent, greasy, criminal, and alien. Their contributions culturally, economically, and historically have never been properly documented or appreciated. Instead, Hispanics in general, and American Hispanics in particular, have been the victims of racist stereotyping in an unbroken string of images and portrayals that began with the battle over Mexican land in the Southwest as America expanded during the frontier era.
In the United States, especially in the Southwest, Manifest Destiny meant taking land from Mexico, displacing Mexican landowners, subjugating the natives, and exploiting them as cheap and expendable labor. In order to rationalize the displacement of the Southwest Hispanics, as they had done with American Indians in the East, Latinos—whether U.S. citizens, newly arrived migrants from the south, or Latin Americans in their own countries—were thought of as lesser humans.
Trump is a smart man and he knows what base he’s playing to. Trump’s leveraging these stereotypes hoping they’ll turn into votes. He knows the base he’s playing towards wants to believe that a criminal, foreign element is the reason for their trouble with getting jobs, keeping their health insurance, and anything else they feel they need a scapegoat for. It’s highly irresponsible, to say the absolute least about it, to play into white supremacy when you’re trying to win a seat that should represent everyone in America.
It’s unfortunate that NBC looked solely at the ratings Trump could bring in instead of weighing the moral implications. I know there will be many like John Leguizamo who will not watch SNL again due to the show symbolically throwing in their allegiance with Trump, whether it’s “simply business” or not. “If he had said those things about any other ethnic group, he would not be on SNL,” he said to Yahoo (as reported by The Hollywood Reporter). “I find it hurtful and insulting, and you’re celebrating someone who has said some horrible things. I just find it unacceptable. I will not watch.”