Stop Using Black People as Props for Viral Videos
Jun 27 2014
Welcome to a special "hood pranks" edition of This Week in Racism. I’ll be ranking shitty internet videos on a scale of one to RACIST, with “one” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.
You may not know this, but there's more on YouTube than cat videos, video game commentaries, make-up tips, excellent VICE documentaries, and Gangnam Style. "Hood Pranks" is one of the most popular video genres on YouTube, and the creators rack up millions of views by exploiting the simple premise that poor black people are funny to take advantage of.
Hood Prank videos vary in style and subject matter, but their structure is fairly uniform. A group of white dudes—usually in a pack of two to four—venture into a predominantly black (or Latino) neighborhood and do something to purposefully antagonize a group of strangers. These strangers, of course, live in an urban nightmare hellscape of violence, drug abuse, and constant fear. You can probably see the wellspring from which the comedy erupts from a mile away, right?
If the history of American popular culture is any indication, no one's ever gone broke from taking advantage of poor black people, so kudos to you, Hood Prankers! You are carrying on a noble tradition; from Phil Spector to Donald Sterling, you are in good company.
–In this video, two well-meaning, but nerdy white guys go up to unsuspecting black folks and ask them if they "have a problem." Umm, yes they do. Lack of access to fresh food, a broken and poorly funded public education system, and a dearth of affordable housing. Oh, wait. This is a prank video. Never mind.
The white nerd pulls out a calculator and says "I can solve it," and we all realize this was a delightful prank on some unsuspecting Negros. Perhaps there was a commentary about the need for education in the black community in here somewhere, that the solution to all problems of race relations is knowledge.
Probably not. 8
–Magic is not a huge deal in urban black communities, probably because magic is generally totally fucking stupid, but also, when living paycheck to paycheck, splurging on a guy making a playing card disappear means you literally cannot eat for a few days. That's why this video exists—to terrify black people who have never seen magic in person before. In just about every instance, at least one observer high-tails it in the opposite direction. Do they think this is a voodoo trick? Are they worried that the magician could be Satan? Did they remember they left the oven on? Did they decide to check on their "many illegitimate children" in various "area codes"? Who knows? What I do know is that this video expertly reinforces the shameful stereotype that black people are stupid.
Also, I should point out that the title of this video is "COMPTON REACTS TO MAGIC!!!" As someone who lives in Los Angeles, I can tell you that most of this video takes place in Venice, and not in Compton. Though for some, any place where more than five black people congregate is practically Compton. RACIST
–In this video, white people try to steal cell phones straight from the hands of black men minding their own business (A.K.A. SELLING DRUGS, PLANNING TO MURDER SOMEONE, OR NOT PAYING CHILD SUPPORT, DUH). The victims obviously react badly, putting our merry pranksters in various UFC-style chokeholds until they surrender their ill-gotten gains. I don't even enjoy this for the thrill of watching someone get hurt, and I love watching people get hurt. Look at this guy getting kicked in the nuts. That's comedy. This is just RACIST
–An escaped lion has infiltrated the concrete jungle where dreams are crushed, oh. The zoo decided to send two bumbling goofballz to the hood to track down this deadly predator before it takes another life. The juxtaposition of lions and white men in safari hats with black men in the ghetto is enough to make me want to lock myself in a supply closet until all the fresh air runs out. RACIST
–What are black people most afraid of (besides lions, having their cell phones stolen by strange men, and being gunned down in a hail of bullets in front of their infant son)? The police. In this video, our pranksters approach some strapping young men in the hopes that they can score some drugs. After the victim agrees to sell them drugs, they impersonate police officers, and the drug dealers make a run for it. One of the many common threads in these videos is the supposed thrill that is derived from watching a black person run for their life. This video also shares the same producer as the escaped lion video—VitalyzedTV. Their YouTube channel has 6.7 million subscribers, and their most popular video has 38 million views. As my friends in the hood would say, that's BALLIN'! 9
–The Hood Prank might have reached its pinnacle and entered its Baroque phase by the time this final video was released. A lone prankster (who appears to be Latino, which is a bit of an outlier) pretends to get shot in various "hood-like" areas, so that we can watch the legitimate fear of death wash over the various innocent bystanders. Watch them scurry like ants to avoid being grazed by stray bullet! Gasp in horror as they lock down their businesses! Amaze at the lethargic way the man at the bus stop waves for help! Cry yourself to sleep as you realize this is what passes for entertainment in 2014 America! RACIST
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