Is ‘Jeopardy!’ Crossing Racial Lines?

Is ‘Jeopardy!’ Crossing Racial Lines?

Alex Trebek, longtime and iconic Jeopardy! Host, announced his possible retirement on Sunday. At 78 years old and recently having had brain surgery, Trebek told Fox News that he is “50-50” for remaining host after his contract expires in 2020.

Trebek’s departure, of course, wouldn’t be the end of the show, but it would leave the podium open for a new host. Trebek gave two recommendations for his potential heirs.

“The fellow who does play-by-play for the Los Angeles Kings, they should consider him,” Trebek told TMZ. He’s talking about Alex Faust, a 28-year-old announcer for the Los Angeles hockey team.

For his second pick, Trebek said, “There is an attorney, Laura Coates, she’s African American and she appears on some of the cable news shows from time to time.”

Why was her race one of her primary identifiers? There’s plenty more that Trebek could have cited from Coates’s impressive resume. Coates is a Princeton grad, a successful lawyer for the Department of Justice, a book author, and a legal analyst for SiriusXM and CNN.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe Trebek just wanted to highlight the progressiveness of the show. But even if this is the case, true acceptance would be highlighting Coates’s achievements as making her qualified, rather than her race.

Trebek didn’t say that Faust was white and male, but I suppose he didn’t have to. Since Jeopardy! debuted in 1964, the host of the show has always been a white male.

Saturday Night Live has used Jeopardy! as a vehicle to highlight the divisiveness of race in America through their “Black Jeopardy” skits. Typically, these skits are formatted like a regular Jeopardy! game show (with Kenan Thompson as the host, Darnell Hayes aka “Alex Treblack”) with two black contestants and one white contestant, whose ignorance about the nuances of African American culture is exposed through the questions and responses.

It will be interesting to see how viewers of the real Jeopardy!—whose average age is 65—will react to the possibility of a young black woman hosting the nightly weekday show, possibly making parts of the sardonic SNL skit a reality.