2018 has been the start of some interesting memes so far including the dangerous tide pod challenge which has sparked some controversy, but one meme has sparked less controversy in journalistic media but more so in social media and that is the Ugandan Knuckles meme.
For those who are unfamiliar with this meme, Ugandan Knuckles is based off of a parody animation of Knuckles the Echidna from Sonic by YouTuber Gregzilla. Then Deviantartist tidestflyer created a 3-D animation version of Gregzilla’s parody animation. The animation was then reused by viewers of a Twitch streamer named Forsen who’s viewers often make flurries of Ugandan jokes and referencing Ugandan warriors on his steams, a lot of them referencing the movie "Who Killed Captain Alex" as well as the video created by Forsen "Zulul", a variation of the internet word “lul.” The video that popularized the meme was a twitch stream where people in VRchat trolled a people online while storming servers with their avatars as the 3-D animation of Knuckles, while making clicking noises and saying “Do you know the wey?” in exaggerated African accents. I have linked a video of FBE's video "Elder's React to Ugandan Knuckles" to help give a visual explanation. It can be viewed here.
Many people feel the meme is racist because it fits a narrow stereotype of Ugandan people. The meme dehumanizes the people of Uganda as people who click their tongues, a language based stereotype that is applied to a lot of African countries. The big issue people have is that the people who are doing it and have popularized it are white. The Twitch streamer is Swedish and most of his followers are from countries that are predominantly white.
However, there are some that feel the meme isn't racist at all and feel people are overreacting. They feel the meme is fine because it's referencing a movie. They feel it's fine because we've mocked stereotypes before from countries like France and Germany. Why is this any different? Another argument against is that Ugandans have seen these videos about this meme and have found it hilarious. Even the director of the movie gave the meme a stamp of approval. And one last argument for the meme: Uganda has so much more to worry about than a meme. Why would they be offended?
Here’s the thing. Uganda can't be simplified by what you see on the news. It can't be minimalized by the opinions of a couple people. It is an entire country with a rich culture. To assume that because a few people from Uganda were okay with the meme debunks decades of westerners mistreating this country and viewing people with dark skin as unhuman or low intelligence or tribal even is proof of ignorance.
And while sure, it's a movie reference, it's really not a matter of who or where it's from but rather how it's being depicted and why it's become so popular. Sure the famous line “Do you know deh wey” is from the movie, but is the clicking.
As far as stereotypes, French stereotypes and Ugandan stereotypes are apples and oranges, my friend. How the stereotypes affect the country isn't on the same level. If a French person is stereotyped, it's funny. Maybe a tourist goes to France and annoys everyone and the most that happens is the French people ignore him or tell him he is an idiot. If someone perpetuates a Ugandan or even just African stereotype because honestly that's what it is because while Africa is an entire continent, westerners throw it in one box, it adds to the horrible way Uganda is portrayed by the media and how people from African countries are treated by predominantly white countries.
As a White person and can't say whether or not something is racist or whether or not other people find it racist or offensive because I don't speak for them. I personally agree that this meme is racist and has a very racist origin. If you don't agree with me or don't know how you feel, I advise you to take the time and think about this meme and how it affects your society. While it might seem like just a silly meme, keep in mind memes are actually really important. They shape our society and tell a lot about us as a whole, about how our generation feels about an issue or how we feel about an event. It can also say a lot about how we feel socially and how we perceive others. What is this meme saying?