The troubling viral trend of the “hilarious” Black poor person
May 7, 2013
Charles Ramsey, the man who helped rescue three Cleveland women presumed dead after going missing a decade ago, has become an instant Internet meme. It’s hardly surprising—the interviews he gave yesterday provide plenty of fodder for a viral video, including memorable soundbites (“I was eatin’ my McDonald’s”) and lots of enthusiastic gestures. But as Miles Klee and Connor Simpson have noted, Ramsey’s heroism is quickly being overshadowed by the public’s desire to laugh at and autotune his story, and that’s a shame. Ramsey has become the latest in a fairly recent trend of “hilarious” black neighbors, unwitting Internet celebrities whose appeal seems rooted in a “colorful” style that is always immediately recognizable as poor or working-class.
Before Ramsey, there was Antoine Dodson, who saved his younger sister from an intruder, only to wind up famous for his flamboyant recounting of the story to a reporter. Since Dodson’s rise to fame, there have been others: Sweet Brown, a woman who barely escaped her apartment complex during a fire last year, and Michelle Clarke, who couldn’t fathom the hailstorm that rained down in her hometown of Houston, and in turn became “the next Sweet Brown.”
Granted, the buzzworthy tactic of reporters interviewing the most loquacious witnesses to a crime or other event is nothing new, and YouTube has countless examples of people of all ethnicities saying ridiculous things. One woman, for instance, saw fit to casually mention her breasts while discussing a local accident, while another man described a car crash with theatrical flair. Earlier this year, a “hatchet-wielding hitchhiker” named Kai matched Dodson’s fame with his astonishing account of rescuing a woman from a racist attacker. But none of those people have been subjected to quite the same level of derisive memeification as Brown, Clark, and now, perhaps, Ramsey—the inescapable echoes of “Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife!” and “Kabooyaw,” the tens of millions of YouTube hits and cameos in other viral videos, even commercials.
It’s difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform. Even before the genuinely heroic Ramsey came along, some viewers had expressed concern that the laughter directed at people like Sweet Brown plays into the most basic stereotyping of blacks as simple-minded ramblers living in the “ghetto,” socially out of step with the rest of educated America. Black or white, seeing Clark and Dodson merely as funny instances of random poor people talking nonsense is disrespectful at best. And shushing away the question of race seems like wishful thinking.
Ramsey is particularly striking in this regard, since, for a moment at least, he put the issue of race front and center himself. Describing the rescue of Amanda Berry and her fellow captives, he says, “I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway!”
The candid statement seems to catch the reporter off guard; he ends the interview shortly afterward. And it’s notable that among the many memorable things Ramsey said on camera, this one has gotten less meme-attention than most. Those who are simply having fun with the footage of Ramsey might pause for a second to actually listen to the man. He clearly knows a thing or two about the way racism prevents us from seeing each other as people.
Now that you know this is a thing, please stop sharing these memes. Poor Black people speaking candidly about various serious incidents isn’t a hilarious joke.
Like I said before, I think adding poc into things JUST for the purpose of inclusion is just as bad. But I don’t think adding them in to a fantasy story that has been around for decades with a very strong and dedicated following is the right way to do it. This isn’t about racism, this is about fucking with my fandom.
Stay away from my elves.
I’m all for being happy that a black person wrote a fantasy book with black protagonists, just as themselves, largely (though not entirely) away from any color related power struggles, letting them exist on their own merit and showing the obvious fact that fantasy characters don’t all have to be pale.
It would be nice if the responses weren’t “FUCK YEAR! FINALLY A BOOK FOR US! TAKE THAT YOU HORRIBLE, BORING WHITEYS”.
However I do fail to see how ‘race isn’t a conflict’ as someone (I think) mentioned above, when it’s really just about black supremacy, not white supremacy. BUT HEY DON’T MIND ME. I prefer not to read fantasy with an agenda, even if it’s in my favor.
I’ll reserve my adulation for a black writer who is above being racist entirely. I do not withhold judgment based on skin color.
You know, I kinda have a problem with this, as well. I’m white, but one thing I’ve made a major point in my life is to never see skin color. If you had told me this book was part of a wonderful fantasy series that would have been fine. If you had told me the protagonists were people of color and the antagonists where white: still fine. But you had to drive home the thought that it’s so superior just for those reasons, and that’s unsettling.
I mean seriously, you SJS Skidmarks whine and bitch about how authors don’t include enough “non-white” characters in their books. Then when an author DOES do so, you whine and bitch because they aren’t the star or the main character. And when an author makes one a pretty important character you complain about THAT.
Seriously, kindly write “racist” on a club and beat yourself to death with it. It’s what you want, anyways, but no one would likely care enough to humor you. You can make the club any color you want, though I think we can all guess what color it’d be. Funny thing is, regardless of that? It’d still be stupid and incredibly ironic.
“Naturally Thresh would be a black man,” tweeted someone who called herself @lovelyplease.
“I was pumped about the Hunger Games. Until I learned that a black girl was playing Rue,” wrote @JohnnyKnoxIV.
“Why is Rue a little black girl?” @FrankeeFresh demanded to know. (she appended her tweet with the hashtag admonishment #sticktothebookDUDE.)
“Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little blonde innocent girl you picture,”@sw4q
“Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad,” wrote @JashperParas
But wait! Let’s not forget the Fan-made movie that was uploaded and waddled its way around the internet well before the ACTUAL film came out, which has OVER 3 MILLION VIEWS AND FEATURES A BLONDE, WHITE RUE, AS WELL AS DOZENS OF COMMENTS REGARDING HOW MUCH “BETTER” IT IS THAN THE ACTUAL HOLLYWOOD MOVIE
According to the filmmaker:
I know that Rue is described as being dark skinned in the book, but I wanted to show Savanna’s acting. I think she would make a good Prim though.
Everytime I watch this, I always think it was so much better than the movie. This vid is just epic. It captures the whole feeling of the book. It’s realistic, and for that reason it’s completely awesome.
- Lakeisha: A Swahili name meaning “favorite one”
- Lateefah: A North African name meaning “gentle and pleasant”
- Latonia: A Latin name. Latonia was the mother of Diana in Roman mythology
- Latisha: Means “happiness”
- Takiya: A North African name meaning “righteous”
An excellent blog entry titled “What is it With Ghetto Names” accurately discusses the stigma against “ghetto” names, the double standards and inherent racism involved, and ends with a straightforward, truthful, and raw statement: “Simply put, the only reason why black names are bad… is because they are held by black people.”
Do me a favor and spread these like wildfire.
Okay so I wasn’t going to go into this but like I really love the entire photoset but here’s why the top left image is problematic in its placement with the rest of the images.
What we have with the banjo strumming hillbilly stereotype is classism. It’s the defining of a certain group of people based on monetary income and geographic location. While classism is something that is extraordinarily important and a vital part of understanding cultures, it doesn’t really belong with the other images because it isn’t a representation of a race as a stereotype. Where the other images represent stereotypes in the form of racial slurs and mockeries of culture, the “redneck” image represents a stereotype that references classism, not racism.
Important stuff, just not quite fitting with the rest of the images here.
Over the last 48 hours, there has been a sustained effort to smear Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old African-American who was shot dead by George Zimmerman a month ago. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said, “They killed my son, now they’re trying to kill his reputation.”
Thus far these attacks have fallen into two categories: false and irrelevant. Much of this leaked information seems intended to play into stereotypes about young African-American males. Here’s what everyone should know:
1. Prominent conservative websites published fake photos of Martin. Twitchy, a new website run by prominent conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, promoted a photo — purportedly from Martin’s Facebook page — that shows Martin in saggy pants and flipping the bird. The photo, which spread quickly on conservative websites and Twitter, is intended to paint Martin as a thug. As Twitchy later acknowledged, it is not a photo of Trayvon Martin. [Examiner]
2. The Sanford Police selectively leaked irrelevant, negative information about Martin. The authorities told the Orlando Sentinel this morning that Trayvon was suspended from school for ten days “after being found with an empty marijuana baggie.” There is no evidence that Martin was under the influence of drugs at the time of his death, nor would prior possession of marijuana be a reason for killing him. It’s unclear what the relevance of the leak was, other than to smear Martin. [Orlando Sentinel]
3. On Fox News, Geraldo said that Martin was dressed “like a wannabe gangster.” Bill O’Reilly agreed with him. The sole evidence is that Martin was wearing a hoodie. Geraldo added that “everyone that ever stuck up a convenience store” was wearing a hoodie. [ThinkProgress; The Blaze]
4. Without any evidence, prominent right-wing bloggers suggested that Martin was a drug dealer. Right-wing blogger Dan Riehl advances the theory, also advanced in a widely linked peice on a site called Wagist. There does not appear to be any evidence to support this claim whatsoever. [Riehl World View]
5. Without any evidence, a right-wing columnist alleged that Martin assaulted a bus driver. Unlike Zimmerman, Trayvon has no documented history of violence. This allegation continues to be advanced by a blogger on the Examiner even after the real reason was leaked to the police and confirmed by the family. [Miami Herald; Examiner]
6. Zimmerman’s friend says Martin was to blame because he was disrespectful to Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s friend Joe Oliver said that Martin would not have been shot to death if Trayvon had just said “I’m staying with my parents.” Of course, Zimmerman was not a police officer, and Trayvon had no duty to tell him who he was or where he was going. [NBC News]
The final part of the effort to smear Trayvon Martin is to link him and his supporters to irresponsible fringe groups like the New Black Panthers and marignal provocateurs like Louis Farrakhan. Threats by these groups are serious and should be investigated, but they have nothing to do with Martin or his supporters. The leader of the effort to associate Martin with these groups is Matt Drudge.
Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi woman living in Southern California, was taken off life support today, succumbing to injuries sustained in a brutal tire iron beating on Wednesday. Shaima was found in her living room, and according to her daughter Fatima and the police investigating, a note was found near her saying “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”
Shaima was a mother of five who has been in the US with her family since the mid-1990s. She was described by her friend Sura Alzaidy as “respectful modest muhajiba.” Her daughter tearfully addressed her mother’s attackers during a media interview, saying “You took my mother away from me. You took my best friend away from me. Why? Why did you do it?”
A terrible incident that more people should know about. This happens in our country. This should not happen.
“I am TIRED OF burying little black boys”
Congresswoman Wilson’s House floor speech on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin
God bless Florida Representative Frederica Wilson.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the time.
Mr. Speaker? I am tired of burying young black boys.
I am tired of watching them suffer at the hands of those who fear them and despise them. I’m tired of comforting mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, and brothers after such unnecessary, heinous crimes of violence.
In Florida, almost 3 years ago, as I served in the Florida senate, a young black boy, Martin Lee Anderson, was beaten to death at a Florida bootcamp. It was all captured on a State of Florida Corrections video and shown all over the world. Martin Lee Anderson was beaten and tortured until his lifeless body couldn’t take anymore, and then Martin Lee Anderson was dead, at the hands of several bootcamp guards. A young boy, who wanted to be somebody! A young boy who was trying to turn his life around.
After they beat him to death on international TV as the world watched, over and over again—not one guard was sent to prison. Not one was even reprimanded. In fact, after we closed down every bootcamp in Florida, many of the accused received promotions.
Well, guess what? In Florida, we have another Martin—Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a renegade wannabe policeman neighborhood watchman.
Trayvon Martin lived in Miami, Florida, in District 17—my congressional district. Trayvon, a 140-pound young black boy, 17 years old, was just trying to live and reach 18. In spite of that, the accused killer, George Zimmerman, has not been charged, and is using the term of “self-defense.”
The 911 audio tapes tell it all. They tell the story of the last moments of Trayvon Martin’s life, just as the videotapes told so visibly the story of Martin Lee Anderson’s last moments.
Trayvon was running for his life. He was screaming for help, fighting for his life, and then he was murdered—shot dead.
Today, I applaud the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI, and the Federal Department of Justice for their intervention. I encourage the citizens of Florida and the citizens from around the world to continue to fight for justice for Trayvon Martin. Justice must be served. No more racial profiling.
I’m tired of fighting when the evidence is so clear, so transparent.
Twenty years ago, while serving as a school board member, I founded the Five Thousand Role Models of Excellence project: A million-dollar nationally recognized and honored foundation that specifically addresses the trials and tribulations of young black boys, and sends them to college. It impacts almost 20,000 young men throughout Florida.
In spite of that, we still have to march, and demonstrate, and write letters, and protest, and fight, and have prayer vigils, and sue, and sit in, just to be heard.
No more! No more, Florida. No more, America! No more hiding your criminal racial profiling by using self-defense to get away with murder. Stand up for Trayvon Martin! Stand up for justice! Stand up for our children!
I’m tired, tired, tired of burying young black boys.
Thank you, and I turn back the balance of my time.
From the link:
“If you subscribe to a color-blind racial ideology, you don’t think that race or racism exists, or that it should exist,” Tynes said. “You are more likely to think that people who talk about race and racism are the ones who perpetuate it. You think that racial problems are just isolated incidents and that people need to get over it and move on. You’re also not very likely to support affirmative action, and probably have a lower multi-cultural competence.”
Let it be known: Color blind racial ideology makes you less likely to recognize racism and thus more likely to accept racism.
The CoBRAS was positively related to other indexes of racial attitudes as well as 2 measures of belief in a just world, indicating that greater endorsement of color-blind racial attitudes was related to greater levels of racial prejudice and a belief that society is just and fair.
COLOR BLIND RACIAL IDEOLOGY MAKES YOU LESS LIKELY TO RECOGNIZE RACISM AND THUS MORE LIKELY TO ACCEPT RACISM.
White people, your own fucking science is AGAINST YOU. Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. When you say you are color blind, you are telling POC that YOU ARE RACIST.
This. Every person I have ever met who has said that they are colorblind are also the same people who say some of the most racist shit I have ever heard. Things that they allowed themselves to deny were racist because they didn’t judge people based on race. uh huh…keep telling yourself that.
Via Global Grind: “17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a Neighborhood Watch captain inside his own gated Orlando, Florida community where he was living with his father, stepmother and little brother, according to the family’s lawyer. Martin was shot after returning home from a local convenience store, where he bought snacks including Skittles candy requested by his 13-year-old brother, Chad.
According to the family’s lawyer Ben Crump, the family is calling for the Watch captain’s arrest, saying Martin was “on his way home and a Neighborhood Watch loose cannon shot and killed him”…”.* Was the teen singled out and shot because he was black in a white neighborhood? Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur discuss if race was involved on The Young Turks.
I know Tumblr doesn’t like hearing about this but when people talk about “white privilege,” part of what is meant is stuff like the ability to exist beyond the confines of your home without the fear of being killed due to your race or ethnicity.
…I fucking hate people today D:
I am all hormonal and periody and this made me cry. :(
Now, I think old letters are already cool, but this letter from a former slave to his old master who wanted him to come back and work for him after emancipation is just a marvel. Eloquently giving the finger: here’s how it’s done.
August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.
I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.
In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
From your old servant,
Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
when you were shooting at me.
(I saw this last year on Ta-Nesi Coate’s blog. Jourdon Anderson, you were an amazing dude.)