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Tulane student satire video sparks controversy over racism in classes

Canela Lopez | Staff Artist

Canela Lopez | Staff Artist

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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.”

20 Comments

20 Responses to “Tulane student satire video sparks controversy over racism in classes”

  1. Tulane student on March 23rd, 2017 11:04 am

    I think everyone over reacted to this video. Y’all all need to calm down. He wasn’t trying to be racist, y’all just call everything racist. The ehtinicity that faces the most racism is whites but that doesn’t matter does it? Harry made a video for a class and y’all turned it into a political stunt. Don’t y’all have better things to do with your lives then attack whites?! Seriously practice what you preach.

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    Also a Tulane student Reply:

    doesn’t this guy have better things to do to walk down to S. Claiborne and attack Mexicans and then make a 20 minute video about it?

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    Tulane student Reply:

    Wow. I didn’t expect those harsh words to come from a pastor. I hope you aren’t preaching that to your congregation and calling other students trolls. That’s severely inappropriate. I was “speaking my mind” as the comment box prompts a user to do. You personally attacked me by calling me names. WWJD? (Something tells me it’s not this…)

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    Patrizia Santos Reply:

    Since when is white an ethnicity ?

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  2. Tulane student on March 23rd, 2017 11:06 am

    Did y’all even consider interviewing students that didn’t hate the video? No because y’all only report on liberal views. OPEN YOUR MINDS. NOT EVERYONE IS A OVER SENSITIVE LIBERAL!!!!!!

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  3. Also a Tulane student on March 23rd, 2017 11:18 am

    This dude is mad that he’s being publicly shamed for being both a terribly racist and TERRIBLY not funny individual. Must suck to be confronted with the fact that being so sheltered and closed minded not only makes you a gross and unkind person, but also deeply unlikable.

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  4. Diana Ward on March 23rd, 2017 11:20 am

    Mr. Rothstein made a video that he of course believes is within his free speech rights but that some students found offensive. Some students commented on the video, which is within their free speech rights, and Mr. Rothstein took offense. Does he not see the irony here? He used the term snowflake to deride students who might have found the content of his video that played on stereotypes offensive, but then whined when he received criticism. Again does he not see the irony here? Attending a university generally entails receiving critical feedback from both professors and peers on your academic work; such is the nature of learning.

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    Another Tulane student Reply:

    and he absolves himself of any blame by saying anyone who was offended doesn’t understand “the context.” Sigh. I don’t think he’ll ever learn, because he clearly doesn’t want to.

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  5. Tulane student on March 23rd, 2017 12:27 pm

    Are all the anti-white campaigns on campus excluded from this? You can’t be hypocritical and not report on those under the same light as well. Im not going to apologize for being white. That’s just as racist.

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  6. Andrew Cerise on March 23rd, 2017 12:46 pm

    I am going to focus less upon the controversy and more upon the video itself. The video in question is described by Rothstein as satire. Satire is defined as “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” Using this definition as a guide to evaluating the video based upon Rothstein’s own definition, it is satire. The PROBLEM with it (before I am called an apologist) is that satire is only conceivably affective when used against those that weild power, i.e. politcal cartoonists are well-received in making fun of the president, but a president trying to satirize political cartoonists would seem needlessly oppressive. Extrapolate this to the issue of privilege. Privileged people, predominantly white, are at liberty to be made fun of for having the power of privilege. In the Living Color is an excellent example of this type of satire. However, no matter how deftly a white comedian tries to pull off satire of disadvantaged classes, it invariably fails because it is seen as oppressive. The class that controls privilege belittling the “vices” of those without privilege is adding salt to the wound even if it isn’t intended to do so. The issue of discrimination aside, this “satire” fails because it doesn’t address the inherent issue of the power relation within race privilege.

    Thank you for your time.

    [Reply]

    Andrew Cerise Reply:

    My apologies for the grammatical errors. The phone screen is small and I type with the deftness of a elephant.

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    Dr. Necessitor Reply:

    Bullcrap. Nothing and no one is immune from comedic critique. Especially here. If you live in America or Canada, no matter what your color or ethnicity, you’re among the top 1% privileged people in the world. And most POC attending Tulane are themselves members of the top 5% in America. So you are neither disadvantaged nor oppressed except in the Marxist sense, which is fantastical nonsense. You are, in fact, so incredibly privileged that you can waste time and energy claiming victimhood about ridiculous microagressions just to manipulate fellow students. You’re a “little Napoleon” authoritarian. Own it.

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  7. Jim on March 23rd, 2017 2:17 pm

    First of all, is this even news? Yes, this kid and this video is racist, but since when is this considered news? This is a writer using a platform to shame this kid or complain about this video. Which as I agree is wrong. This just isn’t news.

    Second, Mr. Santiago needs to read up on the constitution. There actually is no line between the two. Hate speech is protected by the constitution. As racist as this may be, it’s legal.

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    Steve Reply:

    Wait you really think hate speech is protected? Yikes no wonder it doesn’t say a tulane student next to your comment. Don’t get offended unless you’re a flake.

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    Jim Reply:

    Lol there is no “think”. Read it, dude. Hate speech is protected as free speech.

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  8. Sam on March 23rd, 2017 5:28 pm

    Crying racism towards a SATIRICAL video pretty much sums up a liberal in today’s world.

    As for the hullabaloo, why is this even a story?

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  9. Tulane Student on March 23rd, 2017 7:22 pm

    FAKE NEWS!

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  10. Morgan Guyton on March 23rd, 2017 11:30 pm

    Among other racially targeted insults, Rothstein’s video describes Mexican taco truck food as “cow dick and pig shit mixed together.” What makes this different from a generic free speech event is that students in Rothstein’s class were required to watch it as part of their class participation. I’m astonished that the professor in this classroom allowed this video to be viewed in its entirety as part of a required classroom activity. When I was in college, we weren’t allowed to use profane language in official academic assignments.

    The Tulane code of student code forbids the following:
    19. Harrassment, intimidation, or cyberbullying
    20. Lewd or obscene conduct
    21. Abusive, disruptive, or disorderly conduct.

    An investigation from the Tulane Office of Student Conduct seems appropriate to determine whether this video violated these items in the code of conduct. It may be that a student from this specific class would need to file an official complaint based on these or other items in the code of conduct.

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    Student at Tulane Reply:

    What your comment and this article is missing is that this wasn’t a required video. Students had the ability to leave the room while these were played, but many decided to stay on their own free will. It was clearly labeled as satire, but that has been ignored. If this was teasing white people, it would be seen as revolutionary, daring, and brave.

    Also, as a priest you should know better than harassing students. Although you deleted your previous comments, there are screenshots. As a Jew, I know that my Rabbi would be fired if he acted the way you have, and I used to believe priests were held to a similar level. I was sadly mistaken. You all owe Harry a public apology.

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  11. Jack on March 24th, 2017 2:21 am

    What this article doesn’t touch on is the ostracizing remarks made against other minorities. Mr. Rothstein not only targets the Latinx community, but also targets those with disabilities as well as those who identify as homosexual. At that point, the video clearly stops becoming a “satirical” tourism promotional video, but rather one of hate. No promotional tourism video mocks the tourist, pegs them as disabled, or even nods to the fact that the tourism staff could be homophobic. It simply would make for bad business and as such isn’t done. This is not a white vs. other race video, many white people can and have taken offense to it. Furthermore, this work was made for an academic class, not as an extracurricular. No academic piece should use derogatory speech or a substantial amount of profanity. Lastly, this video was made for a Spanish class, yet 99% of the video is in English. Things just don’t add up here.

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
Tulane student satire video sparks controversy over racism in classes