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Meet the next victim of the “hilarious black neighbor” meme

Local news stations exploit racism in their quest for the next viral hit.


Fidel Martinez

Internet Culture

It took less than a week for a local news affiliate to find the next “hilarious black neighbor.”

On Wednesday afternoon, FOX 2 (it covers the greater Detroit, Mich., area) posted a video of a black woman to its site. The video, entitled “Melinda Brown Duncan EXPLODES To News Reporter. ‘I’ll Show You How To Run The City Of Detroit’,” shows the aforementioned woman ranting and cursing out Detroit officials for more than a minute. 

The news station doesn’t provide much context to the video beyond a small blurb using charged language that alludes to Duncan’s race and socioeconomic status:

“Her name is Melinda Brown Duncan baby! This Detroit resident holds nothing back as she tells Maurielle Lue and her Fox 2 Crew what she thinks needs to be done to solve problems in the city.

Nothing more to write here, just play the video to get 1:10 seconds of ‘keeping it real.’”

Nothing more to write here? How about providing some context? Or a link to the news segment that this was filmed for?

That FOX 2 would publish this video is troubling and irresponsible reporting. What was the purpose of uploading it in the first place if not to use Melinda Brown Duncan and her poor black colloquialisms as the butt of the joke? That this happened in Detroit, arguably the most segregated city in the country, is disheartening. 

The comments left behind by FOX 2 viewers are equally depressing. 

“Her English is pretty detroit educated,” wrote one Len Hobbel, “She is collecting welfare she should shut up.”

In another comment, Hobbel suggests that Detroit be burned to the ground.

“It’s Bings fault, it’s Snyders fault, it’s Bushs fault. No lady it’s people like you who can’t speak a proper sentence, it’s boo and his gang bangin homies, look in the mirror and stfu!” opined Jim Sparbel. 

“I would love to have this translated into English, because I THINK she said some good things,” joked Ken Weeks. 

And then there’s this comment, written by an individual by the name of Herbert Hodge:

“The problem with Detroit is that its filled with blacks.”

FOX 2 is complicit in this type of behavior, as evidenced by their usage of terms and phrases associated with African American Vernacular English (“baby” and “keepin’ it real”). These videos are primed to elicit comments like the ones quoted above. 

As a result, news stations nationwide engaging in this practice continue to perpetuate a skewed and ignorant picture of blacks in America. They also shift the focus away from the supposed news event they’re covering and bring these characters to the foreground. 

This trend is so prevalent that Comedy Central’s Key & Peele satirized it in a 2012 sketch.

I called the station for a comment on this piece but was transferred to the voicemail of Kevin Roseborough, the station’s assistant news director.

This problem will persist until we begin to recognize that despite claims to the otherwise, there actually is a racial component to the virality of these videos. 

Thankfully, that appears to be the case. Days after Charles Ramsey was memefied by the Internet, various thought pieces on the issue were published by the likes of Slate, The Atlantic Wire, Blackbook, and NPR

You might not be laughing at these types of videos because you’re racist, but you’re certainly laughing because they’re black.

Photo via Hansel Hansely/YouTube

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