—When comments are better than the article, Atlantic edition (“The Cheapest Generation: Why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy”)
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.
Please stop sharing these memes. Poor Black people speaking candidly about various serious incidents isn’t a hilarious joke.
This is really well written. I admit to have laughed at Dodson’s recounting , so this was good for me to read and I hope people keep reblogging this!!!
May I suggest that Ramsey could be unwise about race relations and simply a racist? To suggest that Ramsey’s statement is wise is silly. He said that when black and white Americans have a relationship it is a sign of some trouble or problem on the part of the white American.This statement is racist to the core, no if or buts.
Actually he was saying the obvious: white people in America are usually scared of black people, certainly to the point that it is beyond rare that a young white american girl would be likely to run into the arms of a black male, without a serious reason.
The fact that racism exists shouldn’t shock you & you shouldn’t try and shame people for pointing out the obvious: racism exists. Claiming that illuminating the truth (that out that we live in a society dominated by racism) is ‘racist to the core’ is unacceptable.
wow, not only did you miss the entire point of Ramsey’s statement, but since when did a white woman meeting a black man on the porch of her captor constitute a relationship? you can’t seriously have the blinders on that much….
think. re-think - the revolution starts at home. p. 268 (via dendroquiver)
this. so much of this.
PLEASE REPOST- my friend Joey hasn’t been heard from since last night. Please spread this around. He’s a wonderful person and a lot of people are missing him right now. He lives in west Philly and is active on tumblr, facebook and other social media sites but hasn’t updated since yesterday.
Joey Ross is a local Philly kid who goes to shows frequently and I’m sure some of you know personally. He’s been missing since yesterday. If you hear from him or know someone who has, please call either number listed below.
267-252-4447 or 856-577-4719
Really rolling a lot of questions over in my head about the state of the “movement” and what it means to be a white anarchist engaging in the “movement” and more importantly what it means to be a white working class southerner in the “movement” and whether there actually is anything worth calling a “movement” and if so who has “legitimate” claims to it and if those people are actually “relevant” to the “masses” and for all our theory we ain’t accomplished much (recently, at least).
and no, this isn’t some “more action, less theory” post and no, I’m not some anti-intellectual because I love political theory and no, this isn’t some insurrectionist post about how solidarity means attack and even though I believe all of those things it still gets us nowhere because we are looking so far away for inspiration? idk maybe thats the problem.
we look to New York, we look to Oakland, we look to Detroit, Chicago, Portland, Athens, Madrid, Montreal, London, Buenos Aires, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Chile, Tunisia, Cairo, Istanbul. Maybe for some “movement-builders” we might even look to Birmingham or Atlanta, but we never really look to Richmond, Norfolk, Williamsburg, Blacksburg, Newport News, or even fucking Farmville. Maybe we don’t know our own cities, our own state well enough to make anything move.
Maybe, but I don’t know. I hear everyone talking about being the “legitimate” voice, or more “Relevant”. Half the time, we’re talking out of our asses honestly. All of these things don’t mean shit if we aren’t talking with “the masses” which, and this goes for almost all of us (yes, even people who think it doesn’t) then we aren’t doing shit. This doesn’t mean we don’t stand our ground, dumb it down, water it down, or limit ourselves. Lets be honest, humble, listen, and learn. But lets be principled, the more discussions we have that leave us stumped and thinking of how to go deeper with our politic THE DEEPER OUR POLITIC WILL GO and the better we’ll do next time someone wants to know why we believe that there is something out there for all of us that is better than this miserable existence.
After an anticapitalist demonstration 10th of May 2013 in Copenhagen, Denmark - called Reclaim The Streets (A part of the anticapitalist projekt Actionweek 19), things got out of hands for the danish police. Demonstrants started building barricares and there where some fights with the police. 22 was arrested, and one of them is being held in custody - charged for throwing bottles at the police.