Tulane student satire video sparks controversy over racism in classes
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
A student video became the subject of contention this week, igniting conversations about satire and race after circulating across multiple social media platforms on Tuesday, March 22.
The video, “Visito a un Restaurante Mexicano muy auténtico!,” was made by freshman Harry Rothstein for a Spanish 1020 assignment in which students had to create a five-minute video in Spanish about anything in Latin America.
“America is supposed to be the land of the free, but feeling victimized by another student’s video, that was edited and still this offensive, makes me wonder why I came to Tulane,” Santiago said.
Rothstein’s piece, spanning 20 minutes and 10 seconds, depicts him walking around a shopping center and narrating the “cultural experience” of living in Mexico. The video includes Rothstein labeling graffiti as “traditional Mexican art” and Taco Bell “muy autentico.” The video also included commentary about violence in Mexico.
“As you can see, we’re in a very safe neighborhood,” Rothstein said in the video. “There’s only been 300 murders last year, which is quite low number for Mexico because this is one of the murder capitals of the world.”
Rothstein said he created the video as a satire piece to poke fun at stereotypical tourism videos and that he did not intend the video to be offensive.
“I felt the content of the video would serve an important academic purpose in the sense that it would make people think about how foreign cultures are approached,” Rothstein said. “Being aware that there may be ‘snowflakes’ in the class, I informed them that the video was satirical, and if they were easily offended, that they could leave the classroom for a short while.”
Rothstein said he felt the video was taken well by his peers.
“My peers generally received the video well,” Rothstein said. “Many people saw the humor in the video and appreciated it.”
Other students in the class, however, such as freshman student Madison Brown, said they felt uncomfortable with the racially insensitive content.
“It pains me … that he painted a picture where my people are pegged as impoverished, criminals and, in the words of the student, ‘cow dick eaters,” Trujillo said.
Brown walked in two minutes late to class and said she found the video to be very confusing initially and was surprised that many of her classmates laughed at the content.
“I began to get weirded out and then offended by the comments that he was making,” Brown said. “… I think it can be seen as targeting all minorities. I know it would have had more of an impact on me if he had made a video appropriating black culture, so I can definitely see this as an attack towards Mexicans and other Hispanics.”
Some members of Tulane’s Latinx student population, such as freshman and Generating Excellence Now and Tomorrow in Education member Paul Trujillo, felt similarly targeted by the video.
“It pains me — even more so than others solely because I am a proud member of the community which the video was targeted at — that he painted a picture where my people are pegged as impoverished, criminals and, in the words of the student, ‘cow dick eaters,'” Trujillo said.
Some students outside of the class also found the video to be offensive after it began to spread through social media platforms, including freshman Ryan Boden, who shared it on the Class of 2020 Facebook page.
“Many people have told me that sharing the video only encourages a ‘witch hunt’ and is ‘bullying,'” Boden said. “… While some comments and reactions may be harsh, the majority are not ‘bullying’ but rather standing against discrimination.”
“If some people were genuinely offended due to not understanding the context, my sense of humor, or who were misled by the libelous statements made against me, I am sorry,” Rothstein said.
Rothstein said he believes student responses to the video on social media are an act of cyberbullying and indicative of a larger cultural issue of social justice “call outs.” He said he thinks the way he was portrayed on social media is what has led to the offense many students have taken toward the video.
“If some people were genuinely offended due to not understanding the context, my sense of humor, or who were misled by the libelous statements made against me, I am sorry,” Rothstein said. “I am not sorry for making a harmless, satirical video that incorporated a sense of humor that many people have except for a few radical students.”
Freshman Roberto Santiago said that, though he believes in freedom of speech, there is a thin line between free speech and hate speech.
“America is supposed to be the land of the free, but feeling victimized by another student’s video, that was edited and still this offensive, makes me wonder why I came to Tulane,” Santiago said. “You can’t shy behind the “It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone” excuse.”