Harris traces this trend of laughing at working-class African Americans from the TV news videos that circulated of Antoine Dodson, who saved his sister from an intruder, to Sweet Brown, who escaped from a fire. She writes, “It’s difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform.” And something more to do with “the most basic stereotyping of blacks as simple-minded ramblers living in the ‘ghetto.’” Harris shows us what great analysis can do—she takes apart a cultural trend and explains why it’s harmful to a minority community. She points out that we shouldn’t make Ramsey into a joke or an oddity because of his class and color, good advice for all of us who are working as journalists.

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Jennifer Vanasco is a is a news editor at WNYC and the former editor in chief of MTV Network's LGBT news site 365gay.com. She writes about social minorities, national politics, and culture. Her award-winning newspaper column on gay and women's issues ran for 15 years.