By Arturo R. García
Even after it seemed we’d analyzed the “Sh-t (x) People Say” meme into the ground, the video above came from a perspective we generally don’t hear from, even in our safe spaces.
“Sh-t White Girls Say to Latinas,” put together by two eighth-grade Latina students, was sent to us a few weeks ago by their teacher, Jennifer Swift, in a Race, Gender and Culture course at their school. For the sake of their privacy, we’re identifying the students as Rosie (the girl in the blonde wig) and Alison (who does not appear in the video). Racialicious confirmed with the girls and with Ms. Swift that their parents approved of their decision to be interviewed via e-mail.
Arturo García: Thanks to all of you, first off, for sharing this video with us and agreeing to discuss it. Could you tell us how you came up with the idea? Which of the “S–t (x) Girls Say” videos was the first one you saw?
Rosie: It was “Sh-t White Girls Say to Black Girls.”
Alison: We saw it in our Race, Class, & Gender course. And then Jennifer came up and told us we should do one.
Rosie: We were thinking that was a good idea. We related to the other one in some ways since we’re a minority race, but there were other things we hadn’t experienced.
Alison: We wanted to show the stereotypes and things people say to us daily.
Rosie: When we thought of it, there wasn’t one that we knew of out there (about Latinas). It’s kind of awkward to go up to someone and say something’s not very nice of you…
Alison: … to just come up and ask me how to say something in Spanish.
Rosie: I speak Spanish, but I’m not your dictionary.
AG: Did you put it online before or after telling your parents or Ms. Swift about it?
Rosie: We decided to put it online, but before we did, we showed it to Jennifer and our parents. My mom said, “Oh, it’s very shocking–it’s like a slap in the face.” My dad said it was good. My dad actually helped. I asked him some stereotypical things people have thought of him. He’s a professor of finance, and once he went to a fancy hotel for a conference, and a man told him that he did a really good job of cleaning the bathroom.
Alison: My mom asked me if people actually say these things to me. I think she was shocked.
AG: Ms. Swift, what was your initial reaction to the video and the girls’ plan?
Jennifer: I loved the idea because these girls are passionate about their heritage. I love the pride that they have, but I have also witnessed some of the struggles they’ve experienced. They are both so hardworking, creative, and smart that I knew it would be incredible.
AG: How about your parents? How did they feel about it going online?
Alison: My mom was okay with it. She wanted people to see it and be aware of it. My mom showed it to my aunt, uncle, and some of my cousins, as well as her boss.
Rosie: My mom said to make sure we didn’t have our last names because she didn’t want people tracking us down or cyberbullying us.
AG: Jennifer, how has this video come into play in your Race, Class and Gender course?
Jennifer: A colleague shared the “Sh-t White Girls Say to Black Girls” video with me, and I showed it to the class. They absolutely loved it. We used it as a way to talk about the unintentionally offensive comments that are sometimes said to people of color. I really like using humor as a way to address some of these topics, which can be so difficult to discuss.
AG: How have other students reacted to the video?
Alison: I could see the guilt on people’s faces when they realized that some of the things that were in this video they had actually said to someone who was Hispanic.
Rosie: We showed it to one class and, at first, nobody said anything. But then their teacher reminded them about what they’d studied about guilt and race, about how everyone’s said something racially insensitive. And then they opened up, and one girl asked a good question bout why it’s offensive. One of my friends from public school is Taiwanese, and she commented that this is exactly what happens to her–people always ask her if she’s Chinese. I was at youth group, and one of my friends said, “Oh, yeah, I saw your video on FaceBook. It was really good.” I was glad it had gotten around. Another friend’s mom saw it before her daughter did.
Alison: My public school friends said it was good, but they didn’t put much attention on it because they don’t go to school with many white people. It’s different.
AG: Ms. Swift, have you heard any comments from your colleagues or your supervisors?
Jennifer: The only concern was about posting the original version on our school conference because of the language, so the girls made a “school friendly” version that was posted. Everyone’s been very supportive.
AG: After “Sh-t White Girls Say To Black Girls” was released, there were some people who were upset that Ms. Ramsey used a blonde wig to symbolize white people. What do you think of that criticism?
Rosie: I think it is a stereotype. You could have put a person with red hair or brown hair, but usually you don’t see a Hispanic person with blond hair or a black person with blond hair (even though there are some blond Hispanics in Spain, Mexico, and Costa Rica– everywhere–it’s just not usually associated with Hispanics). It’s kind of what Disney’s run into: how do you portray a race so it’s obvious what race you’re portraying without using stereotypes?
AG: On our site, we often talk about race with people who are usually in their twenties, thirties, forties, and so on. But we don’t get a teenager’s perspective on a lot of these topics. So, without sounding too vague (or like a bad teen-show host), could you tell us a bit about how discussions about race usually go at your grade level? Are the things you say in the video really that common from white people your age?
Jennifer: Are they really that common?
Alison and Rosie: Yes.
Alison: But lots of kids, their parents really protect them because they don’t want them talking about race, or knowing that racism exists, so it’s hard to get them to open themselves up and talk about how they really feel because they don’t have much experience doing it, especially if they haven’t been around that many people of color.
Rosie: The discussions at our age are pretty good. It’s kind of a relief to talk about things you do face or don’t face. It’s part of our lesson plan for this course (Race, Class, & Gender). People don’t usually just talk about race unless someone’s like, “It’s okay to talk about race now.” In our class, we sometimes do fish bowls …
Alison: In fish bowls, one group get in the middle and talk about a specific topic–race, class, or gender–and express ourselves. And the people on the outside listen. I think those went well because it was among friends not strangers. You were talking to your best friends.
Rosie: It was easier when we did it just with our class than when we did it with other classes because I felt safer. We knew people in our class wouldn’t judge us. We’ve been together for two years …
Alison: We’re a family.
Jennifer: One more thing …
Rosie: I know a lot of people ask, “Have all these things been said to you?” because some of those things are pretty brash. But most of them have either been said to Alison, our friends, our parents, or me. And some of those are long periods of time we’ve spent just compressed into just a sentence.