'S- - - White Girls Say' Parody: Offensive Or Funny?

Jan 12, 2012
Originally published on January 12, 2012 5:29 pm

It's not just "S- - - My Dad Says," anymore. A whole series of video memes parody what, for instance, Asian girls sound like to Asian boys. Or what natural hair girls say to relaxed hair girls. There are even videos about the stuff vegans, yogis and Canadians say.

With more than 5 million hits, "S- - - White Girls Say ... to Black Girls" is quickly becoming one of the most popular of the video parodies, although not without quite a bit of controversy: Some critics are calling the creator a racist.

The video features 28-year-old graphic designer, comedian and video blogger Franchesca Ramsey, who tucks her well-coiffed dreadlocks under a long blond wig to imitate conversations between a white woman and her black friend.

In her alternative persona, Ramsey asks why she can't say the N-word and says, "Jews were slaves too; you don't hear us complaining about it all the time." She also reaches out to touch her friend's hair — over and over again. At one point, Ramsey says it kind of feels like Cheetos.

"I think it's funny because it's real and it's honest and it's silly when it happens to you," Ramsey tells Michele Martin, host of NPR's Tell Me More. "But I think it can be embarrassing for people to confront the fact that they might have crossed the line with some of their friends."

Ramsey says that the character she portrays is based on an actual friend, but she's quick to note that she doesn't think people who've told her some of what she presents in her video are racist. Ramsey says, "I believe that maybe, they're just a little culturally sheltered."

She also points out that her video is no different from the others that generalize about the sorts of things girls, drunk girls, Jewish girls or gay men say.

"It does not represent everyone," Ramsey says. "This is my take on the meme."

The character she portrays seems astute in pointing out racism, but is less aware of her own inappropriate comments. The parody ends with the blond-wigged Ramsey sitting in front of a computer and asking, "Have you seen this S- - - Black Girls Say video? [It's] kinda racist."

Reverse Discrimination?

In addition to millions of views, Ramsey's video has gotten thousands of comments — more than 26,000 with more being added constantly. While some laud her for dealing with big-- and yet, incredibly personal-- issues in a mere two minute burst, others find Ramsey's video offensive.

One claim that comes up over and over again in the comments is that a role reversal would be considered hate and not humor.

Ramsey says that when people don't understand her video they say, "That's racist, because if a white girl was wearing an Afro wig, people would be really mad."

But for now, Ramsey, who's been making comedic videos for years, is pleased to have gotten so much attention for her work. If YouTube "likes" are any sort of litmus test, the video has more than 45,000 of those, and only about 3,000 dislikes.

And of course, the door is wide open for a "S- - - Black Girls Say to White Girls" video for anyone who is up for adding to the video meme.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. In a few minutes we want to tell you about some fresh new work coming out of the venerable Haitian art scene. There's an exhibition currently on display in the United States, but those who sponsored it hope to do more than sell some paintings. We'll tell you more about that in a few minutes.

But first, we want to turn our attention to another one of those YouTube videos gone viral. After debuting last week, it has some five million views and counting and it has created laughter and some controversy. It's a spoof of - and I'm going to use some edited language here because not everybody wants to hear about this - I'm going to say it's a riff off the comedy line stuff my dad says or stuff girls say. This one, we will call stuff white girls say to black girls, and here's a clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

FRANCHESCA RAMSEY: Not to racist, but - not to sound racist, but - not saying racist - my grandma hates collards. Wait, is that racist? Why isn't there a white entertainment television? The Jews were slaves too. You don't hear us complaining about it all the time. Is it, like, bad to do black face? Is that still, like, a thing? You can say the N word, but I can't? How is that okay? My best friend was black. I mean, she's still black, but we're not really friends anymore. Oh my God, I'm practically black. Twinsies.

MARTIN: That's Franchesca Ramsey. She is a 28-year-old graphic designer, comedian and video blogger. She's had two YouTube channels where she posts her comedic skills and parodies and she's with us now from our studios in New York.

Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

RAMSEY: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Now, you've been actually doing this for some time, haven't you?

RAMSEY: For almost five years.

MARTIN: For almost five years.

RAMSEY: I know.

MARTIN: And this one just took off.

RAMSEY: I know. I mean, I think there are a few factors that made this one so popular. The other spoofs in the series have gotten really big. There's been an Asian take, a mom's take, a vegan's take, a yoga take. I mean, pretty much every facet has been covered, but I didn't see something that related to me, so I wanted to do something that I could identify with but was a little different and maybe made people laugh, but made them think.

MARTIN: And just to give people a visual idea, you don a blonde wig in this video. It's really blonde.

RAMSEY: Yes.

MARTIN: Is this based on someone or some people?

RAMSEY: Well, the voice is actually based on a really good girlfriend of mine and I hope, you know, she doesn't get a bad rap because she's really wonderful and she's maybe only asked me about my hair, like, once. But a lot of the comments do come from my real life, whether it be people I've interacted with at work, college, school.

I went to a predominantly white Catholic school growing up and had to encounter my fair share of awkward first moments with my friends.

MARTIN: Well, speaking of awkward, this is one of those things that has been a topic on this program before, which is hair.

RAMSEY: Right. Of course.

MARTIN: The whole question of hair and, you know, friends and hair and what people are allowed to discuss with the hair, and there are some people who are going to listen to this and say, what with the hair again, I don't want to hear any more about the hair.

RAMSEY: Right.

MARTIN: But this is a big deal to some people.

RAMSEY: Right.

MARTIN: And so I'm going to play a short clip, another from your series of videos, "Stuff White Girls Say to Black Girls." Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

RAMSEY: Can I touch it? Okay. I'm already touching it a little. Is this real? Is this all yours? Wait, it's not real? It is? It is. Okay. Sorry. So happy. It kind of feels like a Brillo pad. Oh, did that hurt? Oh, sorry. Sorry. You guys can do so much with your hair. It kind of feels like Cheetos.

MARTIN: You know, we were watching this as a group. There were a bunch of us in our office, a diverse group, watching this in the office, and I'll just put it this way, that some people were just laughing out loud from the first word.

RAMSEY: Right.

MARTIN: And then there were some - I can say it, red faces, I think. Some people were saying, I've said that to some people.

RAMSEY: Exactly.

MARTIN: So tell me why this is funny and why do you think it evokes that response?

RAMSEY: I think that it just depends on what side of the dialog you're on. I chose to use the camera as kind of the POV of the black friend, so you know, if it's something that you've experienced, it's like you're reliving the experience and laughing at how accurate it is. And if you have actually said that to someone else, it's kind of like you're stepping into my shoes for a minute just for this video and suddenly you're thinking, oh my goodness, how uncomfortable would it be to have someone just petting me like a dog?

So I think it's funny because it's real and it's honest and it's silly when it happens to you, but I think it can be embarrassing for people to confront the fact that they might have crossed the line with some of their friends.

MARTIN: We're speaking with Franchesca Ramsey. She is a blogger and comedian. And we're talking about her YouTube video that has gone viral, and we're calling it "Stuff White Girls Say to Black Girls."

Now, you know, they're obviously there are people who think this is hilariously funny. But there are also people who think it's - people have said...

RAMSEY: Racist.

MARTIN: Racist, they say. This is racist. It's reverse discrimination.

RAMSEY: I think that's ludicrous. I think the thing to remember is that yes, this is based on my personal experience. But I also did it as a spoof of the mean stuff girls say. So in that series it's not some girls, it's just girls and it's meant to be taken as a joke. It does not represent everyone, the same way stuff black girls say does not to represent everyone so this is, you know, my take on that meme. But I think because it is a racially sensitive topic people, when they don't understand they're more quick to say well, then that's racist because if a white girl was wearing an Afro wig people would be really mad. And I don't think that it's not honestly meant to be offensive. It's in good fun. It's light-spirited. The people that have said these things to me, I don't believe that they're racist, I believe that they maybe are just a little culturally sheltered. And that was my objective, was to make people laugh, but to make them double - like think a little bit and say oh man, maybe I have done that. I shouldn't do that next time.

MARTIN: You know what's funny, though? It seems to me a lot of the cutting edge humor around race is on YouTube right now. You know, a lot of the networks sitcoms, and I'm not going to mention any by name because, you know, who needs that?

RAMSEY: Exactly.

MARTIN: But a lot of the network sitcoms have been criticized for being crude around race, about being stupid around race and...

RAMSEY: Absolutely...

MARTIN: ...not just this season, but the past season or two. And yet, the cutting edge, the humor that many people really find kind of fresh and appealing, is on YouTube and it's self-generated. Although, you're...

RAMSEY: Right.

MARTIN: I just want to mention this for people who haven't seen it - is that the production quality in the editing is still pretty high. I mean...

RAMSEY: Thank you. I did all of it myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, congratulations.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

MARTIN: I was wondering, why do you think that is?

RAMSEY: I think they're sort of few reasons, and I also think it's great that you brought that up, because I think the way that race is presented on TV has kind of put us in this situation because for so many Caucasians - and not just Caucasian- Americans, all backgrounds - a lot of times we gain our knowledge from TV. And so we say oh, well, black girls on TV act like X, Y and Z. But you don't. That's so weird. What is that about? So for me at least as an actress-comedian, I have found that when I sometimes go on auditions or I get pitches for parts I say that's not me. So that's what I try to do with my content online. I try to show who I am, but I try to show something that people will enjoy because they can relate to me.

MARTIN: OK. One more question, Franchesca.

RAMSEY: Sure.

MARTIN: Can I touch your hair? Just kidding.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAMSEY: Sure. I will set up a little booth for you so you can teleport to New York and you can touch it all you want.

MARTIN: I was just kidding.

RAMSEY: I know you were. I know.

MARTIN: Franchesca...

RAMSEY: But I'm still offended.

MARTIN: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I'm sorry.

RAMSEY: It's OK.

MARTIN: Franchesca Ramsey is a video blogger and comedian. She joined us from our studios in New York. Thank you so much for joining us.

RAMSEY: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.