Youtubers Ignite Outrage Over Race and Gentrification

August 23rd 2016

Lucy Tiven

A teenage, YouTuber couple's account of their trip to Chicago has spurred massive backlash on social media.

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They told their story in a video, which was shared on YouTuber BriannaJoy's channel. In the video, 18-year-old Brianna Joy White and her 19-year-old husband Jaelin White describe an alleged run-in with a suspicious man at a Chicago train station.

The incident allegedly occurred when they arrived in the city — where they had moved to flip housesand scared them out of town immediately.

Here's what happened, according to the couple.

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Broadcasting from Arizona, the Whites claim that a strange man followed them from a train platform to a nearby Subway restaurant. While waiting for an Uber, the husband alleged that he stepped outside and was confronted by the stranger about whether there were a lot of police in the area. The man subsequently punched Jaelin White in the face, the couple asserts in the video. In the heat of the moment, the couple jumped into a different driver’s car that was not an Uber to escape. The driver reportedly gave the couple a ride to their car, which was parked at a CVS. In the video, Brianna Joy White claims she left her phone in the vehicle and honked until the driver pulled over so she could retrieve it, in the process Jaelin allegedly dropped his wallet into the car and lost it as a result.

In their video, the teenagers explain that they believe they were "targeted" due to their preppy outfits and assert that encounter was a sign that God had a different plan for them.

Their assertions quickly ignited backlash from Chicago natives.

"I think people are angry at them for many different reasons," Mason Johnson, a web producer at CBS Chicago told ATTN: over email. "So I don't want to speak for the wide spectrum of Chicagoans, who are ticked off at the Whites for a multitude of reasons. For me personally, it's impossible to miss the cruel irony of the situation... That a YouTube video of what appears to be two young, privileged white people can get over a million views when something mildly bad happens to them in a nice neighborhood, but the inequalities facing the neighborhoods they would never step in go ignored."

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"And Chicagoans realize there's an outside perception that everything is dangerous in our city," Johnson added. "When, in fact, everything isn't dangerous. We have a handful of neighborhoods with few jobs, a lack of education and high crime rates, but the city is otherwise quite average when it comes to crime. The neighborhood they were walking in is as safe as most of the rest of the country."

On a Chicago sub-Reddit, some users asserted that the Whites story revealed their privilege and ignorance of the city they planned to inhabit.

spoiled white kids comments

The response to the video may have been so strong partly because of the Whites' plans to flip houses.

This seems to have made them an easy target for frustrations about gentrification, a source of tension in many parts of the city — which is fraught with racial and economic divides, DNA Info reports.

flipping houses comments

As NPR points out, gentrification has contributed to widening racial and economic divides in Chicago.

"[There's a] perception that predominantly black neighborhoods are higher-crime, more disorderly," Harvard researcher Robert Sampson, who co-authored a 2014 study on gentrification in Chicago told NPR. "And that's feeding into which neighborhoods — among poor neighborhoods — are being gentrified."

"What's really happening is that the neighborhoods that could use some reinvestment and renewal aren't even being touched," Sampson's co-author Jackelyn Hwang added.

Their choice use of the term "homeless" also was somewhat inflammatory considering the city's actual homeless population.

"An estimated 140,000 homeless people live in the city including thousands of public school students in shelters, in tents, in parks or just in whatever place they can find across Chicago," a local ABC News affiliate reported in 2015.

The couple also received more menacing threats, according to an email sent by Brianna White to DNA Info.

"To the people who 'wish we would have got shot' or call us 'privileged white trash' and much more terrible things: Jaelin and I were both raised in middle class families, who worked their butts off to give us food and a place to live," she said. "Neither of us came from money and we have worked our butts off to be where we are right now."

Though some of the comments may have been unduly harsh considering the age and background up the couple, it certainly serves as a reminder that it's important to be conscientious and informed when you arrive at a new city.

You can watch their full video on YouTube and below.

[h/t Select All]