"Look, the sketch bombed. I'm used to that. I meant no offense to the 'aave' community."
Weekend Update co-host Michael Che has evidently just now learned what AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) is.
"AAVE" was a trending topic on Twitter the other day thanks to last weekend's Saturday Night Live episode, which was pretty bad. Tensions were high even before the episode aired, as cast members spoke out against the choice to invite Elon Musk to host. The Tesla CEO, in addition to hoarding his billions and billions of dollars, has come under fire for spreading false information about the pandemic on numerous occasions.
While most of the skits that aired on May 8 were expectedly cringeworthy, one took the cake for being not only unfunny, but flat-out offensive. Titled "Gen Z Hospital" and mocking the high-drama atmosphere of a General Hospital episode, the skit starred Kate McKinnon, Bowen Yang, Heidi Gardner, Ego Nwodim, and Mikey Day as a group of friends waiting for the prognosis after their "bestie's" car accident. The gag is that everyone involved in the skit speaks entirely in "Gen Z slang."
The skit received backlash because much of the punchlines in the skit didn't originate among (white) members of Gen Z; they're staples of AAVE. While words and phrases like "deadass," "cap," "tea," "pull up," "hit different," and "catch hands" have trickled down to the vocabularies of young non-Black people, they all originate from Black American slang.
Che, who wrote the sketch, responded to the backlash in a since-deleted Instagram post.
"I've been reading about how my 'gen z' sketch was misappropriating AAVE and I was stunned cause what the f**k is 'AAVE'? I had to look it up," Che wrote. "Turns out it's an acronym for 'African American vernacular english.' You know, AAVE! That ol' saying that actual black people use in conversation all the time…Look, the sketch bombed. I'm used to that. I meant no offense to the 'aave' community. I love aave. Aave to the moon!"
On @nbcsnl, Michael Che wrote a sketch featuring @elonmusk that was accused of appropriating "African American Vern… https://t.co/4z04tHLZVx— Nick Gillespie (@Nick Gillespie) 1620738458.0
As a Black person, Che isn't responsible for how white audiences might respond to his material. But, as a man with a regular spot on one of the country's longest-running television shows, he should be careful about the implications of the jokes that are broadcast to white audiences.
While "Gen Z Hospital" could be interpreted as poking fun at people who misuse AAVE, it doesn't seem like that was Che's intention. By extension, "Gen Z Hospital" verges on fueling a long-running misconception that AAVE isn't "proper" and the Black people who use it are less educated than white peers.
On a much smaller scale, Che's refusal to take responsibility in the situation is telling. Sure, SNL is a bunch of jokes. But with a high level of visibility comes potentially damaging consequences. When the show you write for isn't exactly known for inclusivity, you have to proceed with caution.
Watch "Gen Z Hospital" below if you dare.
Gen Z Hospital - SNL www.youtube.com