Today Americans will mark the birthday of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr with a series of memorial breakfasts, panel discussions and workshops on how U.S. race relations have evolved since his assassination. Most would say that there have been many improvements. According to a recent Gallup poll, “more Americans believe U.S. race relations have gotten better rather than worse with Barack Obama’s election as president.”
However, recent events such as the controversies around President Obama’s birth certificate and new U.S. television program “All-American Muslim” would suggest otherwise. The surge in social media allows anyone to use the medium to combat racial and ethnic stereotyping and discrimination. With the use of online video specifically, more people are using innovative storytelling tactics to start these discussions. Currently on YouTube, there is a series of funny, yet thought-provoking videos called “Sh*t Girls Say” made by both amateur and professional videographers addressing racial attitudes, like the above video made by Iraqi actress Tamara Dhia.
Another video in the series that has taken off is “Sh*t White Girls Say…to Black Girls” by New York video blogger Franchesca Ramsey, which is based on comments made to her by other white females. Ramsey said in a recent interview that she was hoping to get high viewer hits at first.
“I saw other videos in the series become popular online,” she said. “I thought they were funny, but I couldn’t relate to them or see myself in them.”
This video garnered five million hits in one week, and sparked a larger online discussion. Ramsey says she has received both positive and negative emails from others who wanted to discuss the meaning behind the video.
Filmmaker Issa Rae also felt that she wasn’t represented as a black woman in mainstream media. After reading yet another article about the lack of African-Americans onscreen, she decided to be the media and do her own online webisodes about being “awkward,” and, thus, the name of her series “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.”
“This is the future, especially for minority content producers on the Internet,” she said in a recent CNN interview. “This is the way to go. There is no gatekeeper. You can release whatever content you want. I think this is the best route to take, honestly.”