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.
Why Society Still Needs Feminism
Because to men, a key is a device to open something. For women, it’s a weapon we hold between our fingers when we’re walking alone at night.
Because the biggest insult for a guy is to be called a “pussy,” a “little bitch” or a “girl.” From here on out, being called a “pussy” is an effing badge of honor.
Because last month, my politics professor asked the class if women should have equal representation in the Supreme Court, and only three out of 42 people raised their hands.
Because rape jokes are still a thing.
Because despite being equally broke college kids, guys are still expected to pay for dates, drinks and flowers.
Because as a legit student group, Campus Fellowship does not allow women to lead anything involving men. Look, I know Eve was dumb about the whole apple and snake thing, but I think we can agree having a vagina does not directly impact your ability to lead a
Because it’s assumed that if you are nice to a girl, she owes you sex — therefore, if she turns you down, she’s a bitch who’s put you in the “friend zone.” Sorry, bro, women are not machines you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.
Because only 29 percent of American women identify as feminist, and in the words of author Caitlin Moran, “What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Did all that good shit get on your nerves? Or were you just drunk at the time
of the survey?”
Because when people hear the term feminist, they honestly think of women burning bras. Dude, have you ever bought a bra? No one would burn them because they’re freaking
Because Rush Limbaugh.
Because we now have a record number of women in the Senate … which is a measly 20 out of 100. Congrats, USA, we’ve gone up to 78th place for women’s political representation, still below China, Rwanda and Iraq.
Because recently I had a discussion with a couple of well-meaning Drake University guys, and they literally could not fathom how catcalling a woman walking down University Avenue is creepy and sexist.
Could. Not. Fathom.
Because on average, the tenured male professors at Drake make more than the tenured female professors.
Because more people on campus complain about chalked statistics regarding sexual assault than complain about the existence of sexual assault. Priorities? Have them.
Because 138 House Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act. All 138 felt it shouldn’t provide support for Native women, LGBT people or immigrant women. I’m kind of confused by this, because I thought LGBT people and women of color were also human beings.
Because a girl was roofied last semester at a local campus bar, and I heard someone say they think she should have been more careful. Being drugged is her fault, not the fault of the person who put drugs in her drink?
Because Chris Brown beat Rihanna so badly she was hospitalized, yet he still has fans and bestselling songs and a tattoo of an abused woman on his neck.
Because out of 7 billion people on the planet, more than 1 billion women will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes. Women and girls have their clitorises cut out, acid thrown on them and broken bottles shoved up them as an act of war. Every second of every day. Every corner of the Earth.
Because the other day, another friend of mine told me she was raped, and I can no longer count on both my hands the number of friends who have told me they’ve been sexually assaulted. Words can’t express how scared I am that I’m getting used to this.
Because a brief survey of reality will tell you that we do not live in a world that values all people equally and that sucks in real, very scary ways. Because you know we live in a sexist world when an awesome thing with the name “feminism” has a weird connotation. Because if I have kids someday, I want my son to be able to have emotions and play dress up, and I want my daughter to climb trees and care more about what’s in her head than what’s on it. Because I don’t want her to carry keys between her fingers at night to
Because feminism is for everybody, and this is your official invitation.
I graduate from college in approximately 10 days.
I’m not very good at saying goodbye - I never know where to start or what to say. I usually just abandon things without a word or a glance.
I walked through the Founders Memorial Garden between classes yesterday as a kind of silent farewell to UGA. I think that will do for now.
Jesus, I ask you for you.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.