Racism & YouTube: A Double-Edged Sword

by Evette Dionne

FranchescaFranchesca Ramsey is a viral Internet sensation. She uses humorous YouTube videos and Tumblr sequences to tackle several cultural plagues, including racism, sexism and the persistence of rape culture. Ramsey, known through the Internet as Chescaleigh, posted “Sh** White Girls Say to Black Girls” to her YouTube channel in 2012 and it generated millions of hits. The viral video increased her exposure – to audiences and racism.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Ramsey explained on the “Racism on YouTube” panel at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) conference. “It’s opened a lot of doors for me, but I know that because of that video, there are some people who are never going to watch my videos and are never going to give me a chance and see that I’m so much more than that video.”

The Racism on YouTube panel examined the various struggles minorities, particularly black Americans, contend with on the platform.

Ramsey sees YouTube as a viable platform riddled with racism because it’s easier to invoke anonymity when responding to posters.

“On Facebook, you have to like my page,” she explained to CNN. “(YouTube) is such a visual medium. If I have a blog, you don’t need to know what race I am. If you watch my videos, you know I’m a black woman.”

But the racism extends past comments to the demographics of the forefront personalities. Jenny Unghba Korn, a web researcher, found only one black creator, four Asians, and one of Middle Eastern descent rank in the top 100 most popular YouTube channels.

But this is simply reflective of how minorities are regarded in business.

“YouTube in and of itself isn’t some special device,” she told CNN. “It’s actually a reflection of the culture that we’re in right now. There’s a reason that folks feel empowered to say things online that they would not say in person. In person, you almost want to dare them to say something like that, because they wouldn’t get away with it.”

In life we have the chance to lower our voices when we address cultural issues. We whisper in restaurants, speak low to one another in the boardroom and spill it out over drinks. But visual figures, like Chescaleigh, don’t have that luxury.

A lot of writers, academics and ordinary, productive citizens don’t have that privilege either. When we critique popular culture, politics and fashion with a racialized lens, we’re met with “reverse racist” allegations and accused of resurfacing race past “post-racial” culture. We’re met with the “I’m a white male, so I guess I should apologize for being a racist and sexist member of the white fraternity” or “This article is reverse racism against whites.”

But what Chescaleigh reminds us is of the benefits of using our voices to raise awareness to the issues plaguing social institutions.

Her YouTube channel has generated 18 million views, so an audience is absorbing her content.

  • Moe

    Everything black women do is a double edged sword. We are slapped with double standards with literally everything we do. I can’t wait for a revolution for people to start seeing us as individuals and not as a unit and for people to hold women of other races to the same standards they hold us to.

  • Chic Noir

    I enjoyed Chescaleigh video ” stuff White girls say to Black girls” but once it started picking up steam in the media, I was afraid she would fall into the Blk pundit ghetto.

    That is the Blk commentator who is only brought out when “Blk issues” are being discussed. So in discussions on things like the national deficit, higher education, national security, nuclear weapons in Iran,the future of NASA etc… the blk pundit isn’t included.

    When the latest Blk face controversy or police brutality video is aired,that’s when blk pundit is rolled out.

  • Jay Cee

    Chick Noir, sorry to disagree with you, but I’ve seen plenty of Black pundits speak on the issues that you mentioned. I watch CNN and MSNBC and I see these Black pundits very often.

  • kathleen

    My only criticism of Chescaleigh is the ” White Girls Say About Black Girls” video. If that was your platform by which you achieved your fame then be prepared to have race be an obstacle for you as you go forth into your career.Plus i didnt think the video was video

  • http://youtube.com/chescalocs Chescaleigh

    Fair enough! But, out of over 200 videos that one was the first one I had ever discussed race, and yet my race is mentioned in a handfull of comments of almost all of my videos.

    I had been making videos for 5 years prior to SWGSTBG which dealt with all types of issues, but the one video about race is what went viral and caused a media firestorm and cries of “reverse racism”. Meanwhile, i was being called every racist name in the book on YouTube and that wasn’t newsworthy. So I think that says more about our culture than it does about me as a content creator. I have no problem talking about race, or racism, but the fact is there are some viewers who will never see my work outside of that racial lens, no matter what the video is about.

  • anon

    I can’t say much for her videos because her style is very children’s theatre performer to me, but at least she’s discovered that being a victim of racism is a fool-proof way to expand her profile. Everybody loves a victim after all. What I’d like to know is what is the solution to this problem? What needs to change or occur in order for the top 100 youtube people to be more racially diverse? Does Youtube need to count differently?

  • MamaB.

    I love Chescaleigh! She is intelligent, funny, beautiful and probably a long list of other positive things I don’t know about (don’t know her personally)!
    I enjoyed SWGSTBG and subsequently saw her other videos—primarily the ones about hair, her fitness body (her body is bangin’!) and then the one about her engagement–beautiful!

    Brava to her and may she continue to succeed!

  • Keshia

    YouTube is very racist, mostly Internet thugs and trolls looking for attention. Im a black girl and thought her video was accurate, of course the media tried to turn it around on her, but she handled her self amazingly on Anderson cooper’s show. Also one thing I noticed the most hateful video posted about black people are from other black people. I have never seen so many “black men” get on a website and bash the heck out of black women like the losers on YouTube. And one of the best videos posted and black women( or fight for air representation in the media) was posted by an Asian guy.

  • gsutiger

    You don’t know for a fact that these are truly “black men” attacking black women. People can be anyone they want to be on you tube.

  • Emy

    I love her!!! I’m subscribed to almost all of her channels. She’s a very intelligent and beautiful person and she’s not afraid of speaking her mind. I’ve read some mean and racist comments on some of her videos but she always handles them with class. Unfortunately this is the era of Internet gangsters and people tell you stuff they would not dare to say to your face. I understand why some websites force people to log with a twitter or facebook account.

  • Chanela17

    She means the endless “why I hate black women” video rants on YouTube that are by black. I’ve seen them an they’re very sad!!

  • http://www.chicnoir.wordpress.com chicnoir

    Oh I didn’t say there were no Blk pundits that covered world issues. CNN has a young Blk guy with shoulder length locks who covers a wide range of issues. I just hope Cheslacaigh doesn’t get sweep into that “blk pundit” box like Michael Eric Dyson or honory blk,Tim Wise.

  • The Comment

    Will someone tell me why our hair super grows when put in locks? I really wanna know.

  • apple

    its so true! its not even just with youtube guru/videomakers.. go to any major commercial where the black person is the main character/important (even children) and you will find nothing but racist ass shit in the comments.. its so annoying

  • Come On

    It is like when naturals wear their hair in protective styles such as twists and braids. You are not manipulating your hair, so it breaks less and grows more.

    I read somewhere though that locs get big and long because there’s shed hair in the loc. I don’t know about that, but when people comb out their locs, it’s usually not as long as the locs were. So maybe there’s some truth to it.

    But I wear my hair in protective styles. It is bra strap length. I think low manipulation protective styles are a big part of why it has grown.

  • Come On

    It’s sad but I don’t let it get me down. A lot of these people are losers that search the Internet for videos and articles with black people in them to make comments. When I think about how stupid and pathetic they are, it actually makes me laugh. I mean you have to be a pretty big loser to troll the Internet like that.

  • Chic Noir

    Somebody from this very blog introduced me to the one and t.0mmy s.otomayor. My God that man is viscous. He seems to love his daughter a lot. I don’t understand why he can’t see that the very things he post may harm his daughter in the long run.

  • Chic Noir

    Even those of us with lose natural hair grow it long after about 5 years. I hair thrives on low manipulation. Every times we comb our hair it’s like we are giving ourselves a miniature haircut. Protective styling FTW.

    It’s not that our hair doesn’t grow, we just have trouble retaining length.

  • The Comment

    Thanks!

  • The Other Jess

    YES, I totally agree with both Keshia and gsutiger. Keshia, I call those anti-Black woman hate videos by Black men on YouTube the “Black Ku Klux klan”. They are ridiculous , and the hating on Black women outnumber hate videos towards all other ethnic groups of women. Just try typing in “I hate xyz women”, replacing zyz with different racial groups, and you’ll see the hate towards Black women far outnumber all other groups.

    At the same time, as gsutiger mentioned, some of these videos are not necessarily made by Black men. People can use technology to disguise their voice to deeper or “sound blacker”, and in some cases the youtube videos don’t show a face, just audio. So you don’t really know who is behind those videos.

    But still, unfortunately, there are many many more where the men gleefully are unafraid to hide their faces, and show you that they are Black and happily spew hatred about black women. And much of it is VIOLENT speak. A Black girl was even stalked and killed by a crazed Black man who did videos about how much he hated black women. Who ever thought that after going thru slavery, racisms, colorism, Jim Crow and segregation that our own men would turn so virulently against us? It’s craziness, but true, and i think youtube should be taken to task for allowing racist hate speech against Black women, even if the racists are Black men.

  • Keshia

    I agree with you!! I actually left a comment once on some video where a black man was saying how white women were better than black women lol I was like well by your points in this video white men are better than men correct? He responds back with a bunch of bs garbage it was actually quite hilarious.

  • http://melodymoose.deviantart.com/ Catpopstar

    For some reason pointing out the racism of others is like the worst thing you can do and it makes you the racist. I never really got that logic. Does recognizing a crime make you a criminal?

  • gsutiger

    I stand corrected.

  • Fantastico

    Chescaleigh you are all things lovely!

  • Chic Noir

    The other Jess,

    You are definitely on to something about YouTube needing to block such videos.

    I have a thick skin when it comes to White racists but I am trully shocked at some if the stuff our own people post on Youtube. Let’s not talk about the “niggas be like,bitchs be like” meme on Instagram. The black women and children as monkeys and the constant mockery of dark-skinned Blk women as if being dark-skinn is a bad thing. Young Black girls under 18 got it ruff today. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to insulate our young girls from this madness.

  • Bren

    Chesca, you are an inspiration. You are beautiful, funny and I love your videos. Keep doing what you are doing. Misery loves company and if people want to be narrow minded and blind, tell them “thank you for visiting my page, now f-off!” Regardless of our accomplishments, some people choose to be blind and ignorant, only paying attention to the outside because they are too dumb to realize that people are individuals. They’d rather be lazy and hate than be proactive and learn. Let them lead themselves into a ditch but don’t go along with them.

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