Why are we sharing the Charles Ramsey meme?


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The Independent Online

You've probably seen the Charles Ramsey video by now (if not, hey, it's right above). In the 3 minute clip, the neighbour of Ariel Castro, the man today charged with kidnapping and raping three women, describes how he heard one of the victims shout from next door and went over to help. It's become a viral hit - with almost ten million views on combined YouTube sources - but what's the root of its success?

Here's Aisha Harris, writing in Slate, in a piece that has itself been shared 81 thousand times on Facebook:

"Charles 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. This 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."

A blogger for the Economist replies:

"It's true that Mr Ramsey's accent, word-choice and grammar all suggest a black American without higher education. But the totality of the interview suggests a fast-thinking and clever man. Of course, many people are sharing the video because Mr Ramsey doesn’t sound like their co-workers, but they’re also sharing it because it’s proof that a poor person is not dumb by virtue of the fact that he doesn't speak the Queen's English."