FranchescaFranchesca Ramsey is a viral Internet sensation. She uses humorous YouTube videos and Tumblr sequences to tackle several cultural plagues, including racism, sexism and the persistence of rape culture. Ramsey, known through the Internet as Chescaleigh, posted “Sh** White Girls Say to Black Girls” to her YouTube channel in 2012 and it generated millions of hits. The viral video increased her exposure – to audiences and racism.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Ramsey explained on the “Racism on YouTube” panel at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) conference. “It’s opened a lot of doors for me, but I know that because of that video, there are some people who are never going to watch my videos and are never going to give me a chance and see that I’m so much more than that video.”

The Racism on YouTube panel examined the various struggles minorities, particularly black Americans, contend with on the platform.

Ramsey sees YouTube as a viable platform riddled with racism because it’s easier to invoke anonymity when responding to posters.

“On Facebook, you have to like my page,” she explained to CNN. “(YouTube) is such a visual medium. If I have a blog, you don’t need to know what race I am. If you watch my videos, you know I’m a black woman.”

But the racism extends past comments to the demographics of the forefront personalities. Jenny Unghba Korn, a web researcher, found only one black creator, four Asians, and one of Middle Eastern descent rank in the top 100 most popular YouTube channels.

But this is simply reflective of how minorities are regarded in business.

“YouTube in and of itself isn’t some special device,” she told CNN. “It’s actually a reflection of the culture that we’re in right now. There’s a reason that folks feel empowered to say things online that they would not say in person. In person, you almost want to dare them to say something like that, because they wouldn’t get away with it.”

In life we have the chance to lower our voices when we address cultural issues. We whisper in restaurants, speak low to one another in the boardroom and spill it out over drinks. But visual figures, like Chescaleigh, don’t have that luxury.

A lot of writers, academics and ordinary, productive citizens don’t have that privilege either. When we critique popular culture, politics and fashion with a racialized lens, we’re met with “reverse racist” allegations and accused of resurfacing race past “post-racial” culture. We’re met with the “I’m a white male, so I guess I should apologize for being a racist and sexist member of the white fraternity” or “This article is reverse racism against whites.”

But what Chescaleigh reminds us is of the benefits of using our voices to raise awareness to the issues plaguing social institutions.

Her YouTube channel has generated 18 million views, so an audience is absorbing her content.

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  • Moe

    Everything black women do is a double edged sword. We are slapped with double standards with literally everything we do. I can’t wait for a revolution for people to start seeing us as individuals and not as a unit and for people to hold women of other races to the same standards they hold us to.

  • Chic Noir

    I enjoyed Chescaleigh video ” stuff White girls say to Black girls” but once it started picking up steam in the media, I was afraid she would fall into the Blk pundit ghetto.

    That is the Blk commentator who is only brought out when “Blk issues” are being discussed. So in discussions on things like the national deficit, higher education, national security, nuclear weapons in Iran,the future of NASA etc… the blk pundit isn’t included.

    When the latest Blk face controversy or police brutality video is aired,that’s when blk pundit is rolled out.

    • Jay Cee

      Chick Noir, sorry to disagree with you, but I’ve seen plenty of Black pundits speak on the issues that you mentioned. I watch CNN and MSNBC and I see these Black pundits very often.

    • Oh I didn’t say there were no Blk pundits that covered world issues. CNN has a young Blk guy with shoulder length locks who covers a wide range of issues. I just hope Cheslacaigh doesn’t get sweep into that “blk pundit” box like Michael Eric Dyson or honory blk,Tim Wise.

  • kathleen

    My only criticism of Chescaleigh is the ” White Girls Say About Black Girls” video. If that was your platform by which you achieved your fame then be prepared to have race be an obstacle for you as you go forth into your career.Plus i didnt think the video was video

    • Fair enough! But, out of over 200 videos that one was the first one I had ever discussed race, and yet my race is mentioned in a handfull of comments of almost all of my videos.

      I had been making videos for 5 years prior to SWGSTBG which dealt with all types of issues, but the one video about race is what went viral and caused a media firestorm and cries of “reverse racism”. Meanwhile, i was being called every racist name in the book on YouTube and that wasn’t newsworthy. So I think that says more about our culture than it does about me as a content creator. I have no problem talking about race, or racism, but the fact is there are some viewers who will never see my work outside of that racial lens, no matter what the video is about.

    • Fantastico

      Chescaleigh you are all things lovely!

    • Bren

      Chesca, you are an inspiration. You are beautiful, funny and I love your videos. Keep doing what you are doing. Misery loves company and if people want to be narrow minded and blind, tell them “thank you for visiting my page, now f-off!” Regardless of our accomplishments, some people choose to be blind and ignorant, only paying attention to the outside because they are too dumb to realize that people are individuals. They’d rather be lazy and hate than be proactive and learn. Let them lead themselves into a ditch but don’t go along with them.

  • anon

    I can’t say much for her videos because her style is very children’s theatre performer to me, but at least she’s discovered that being a victim of racism is a fool-proof way to expand her profile. Everybody loves a victim after all. What I’d like to know is what is the solution to this problem? What needs to change or occur in order for the top 100 youtube people to be more racially diverse? Does Youtube need to count differently?

  • MamaB.

    I love Chescaleigh! She is intelligent, funny, beautiful and probably a long list of other positive things I don’t know about (don’t know her personally)!
    I enjoyed SWGSTBG and subsequently saw her other videos—primarily the ones about hair, her fitness body (her body is bangin’!) and then the one about her engagement–beautiful!

    Brava to her and may she continue to succeed!