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.
If this aint the truth and nothing but.
BLESS EVERY SENTENCE OF THIS POST
Did I meet you for a reason or for a season?
There was a party on May 3rd at the University of Southern California with the majority of attendees being African-American and Hispanic USC students. The party was registered with the school, and there was another party directly across the street being attended by mostly Caucasian/White students. Both parties had similar noise levels according to dozens of accounts from both sides (source).
Two cops arrived to the party with the minorities and told them to lower their noise level; the party’s host told the attendees to go inside the house and they resumed the party in there with lower volume. A few minutes later the cops came back and students began leaving, and the cops arrested the host. More and more cops began to arrive and soon a helicopter came. All of this was while the students were filing out and more and more cops entered the home; furthermore, the white party continued across the street and some officers even went there to tell them to stay inside and safe. A white student told reporters that “basically they didn’t stop our party at all. They had no problem with us.” (source).
As the minority students saw all the cops and attempted to leave, some were tased, and some were slammed to the ground and arrested. Many resisted on the grounds that they had no idea why they were being arrested seeing as they were leaving peacefully and were over the drinking age (the party required ID). Even more cops arrived (source)(video).
Later that night at about 4:30am, a resident at the house where the white party was thrown was awoken by thudding. He rose to see two LAPD officers trying to speak to his roommate. They ordered him to wake up everybody in the (co-ed) house and as they did so they stumbled into two female residents shirtless and asleep, and one of the officers simply stared. (source)
The reason that they were in that house was to gather statements about how LAPD acted correctly against the minority students but the students at the white party’s house gave factual statements that did not incriminate the minority students how the officers wanted. They have complained about their home being entered without a warrant in the middle of the night but have yet to hear back.
On Tuesday USC will have an open forum in regards to the racial profiling that happened (at the party and in the past) at the school but that is not enough; this has to be more than a local issue and should be made known nationally. USC has issues with racial profiling and it is time that it stops. Anyone can help by signing this petition and making it big. (Photograph source)
Who does this surprise?
I’m still young
Maybe it is better this way. Maybe we were in each others life for a reason. You taught me that I am not like the rest. I thank you for that.
But I can’t help but wonder what happened.
I have done some serious thinking. This thinking did not help me to find the answer to what went wrong but it lead me down another path.
Now at this point in my life I can see that I have neglected myself. I have let my personality and mood be effected by others far too much. I have changed since I’ve been here… and change is good… but this quarter I changed for the worse.
This is not me, and I am not sure how I’m going to find myself again… but I know I need to before it is too late.