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Why Did It Take 7 Years For SNL To Hire A Black, Female Cast Member?



The recent decision by Saturday Night Live to hire an African American woman underscores the lack of diversity on the show and in the wider media landscape.

In fact, Sasheer Zamata will be only the fourth African American woman to ever be a cast member on the show. She will be the first since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. Zamata makes her debut January 18.

Why do minorities still get short shrift in the entertainment industry?

Naeemah Clark has been thinking about these issues a lot. She's the author of "Diversity in U.S. Mass Media" and an Associate Professor at Elon University.

She conducts a concrete activity to illustrate the issue for her students. She tries to get young people who are headed into entertainment and communications to think about their future selves, and their roles as media decision makers.

Credit Elon University
Naeemah Clark

"One of the first exercises I do in class when we start talking about issues related to diversity (and the students love this), I have them take out their cell phones. I say, 'Look at who your friends are. Who are the people…if you were doing a story... who would you call?' And then I ask, 'Do these people look just like you? If you are a white male, are you calling a white male? How can we tell this story in a different way?'"

Both Clark and North Carolina State University associate professor Devin Orgeron discussed the lack of minority roles in the entertainment business on today's State of Things.

Take a look at this NPR blog post about the Sasheer Zamata hire.

Here's Sasheer Zamata's pre-SNL acting reel:

Sasheer Acting Reel 2013 2.0 from Sasheer Zamata on Vimeo.

Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
Alex Granados joined The State of Things in July 2010. He got his start in radio as an intern for the show in 2005 and loved it so much that after trying his hand as a government reporter, reader liaison, features, copy and editorial page editor at a small newspaper in Manassas, Virginia, he returned to WUNC. Born in Baltimore but raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Alex moved to Raleigh in time to do third grade twice and adjust to public school after having spent years in the sheltered confines of a Christian elementary education. Alex received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has a minor in philosophy, which basically means that he used to think he was really smart but realized he wasn’t in time to switch majors. Fishing, reading science fiction, watching crazy movies, writing bad short stories, and shooting pool are some of his favorite things to do. Alex still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is holding out for astronaut.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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