Culture

The Racist Origin Of The ‘I’m Gonna Tell My Kids’ Meme

The very funny meme has a wild backstory.

gonna tell my kids meme

Memes about history have really been having their moment lately.

But in 50 years time when your grandchildren have to do a school project on a historical figure, they’re going to be thoroughly confused by their search results. Thanks to the ‘I’m Gonna Tell My Kids’ meme, they’ll be presented with Lana Del Rey as Jackie Kennedy and Baby Yoda as Danny DeVito.

However, despite how funny ‘I’m Gonna Tell My Kids’ has become, the meme’s origins are tied up in racism and politics.

Racism And The Birth Of The Meme

The earliest known example of the ‘I’m Gonna Tell My Kids’ meme was tweeted out in September. Twitter user @Wake_n_Bacon used an image of Mr. Popo from the popular anime Dragon Ball Z in response to Justin Trudeau’s newest blackface scandal.

On September 19, Time reported that Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, was caught in blackface during an “Arabian Nights” party. The photo obtained from the 2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, where Trudeau previously taught, shows the Prime Minister covered in black paint and a turban.

Mr. Popo, the big-bellied, dark-skinned and red-lipped assistant deity, is always depicted wearing a white turban, red vest and harem pants — a very similar look to Justin Trudeau’s “Arabian Nights” image.

Beyond the Trudeau’s obvious problematic actions, which he has since apologised for, Author Carole Boston Weatherford has criticised the Mr. Popo character for being a racist caricature of black people too. Similar to Jim Crow in the exaggerated black features, Weatherford claims that “Mr. Popo depict[s] descendants of Africa through the bigoted lens of white supremacy.”

While not the first meme to poke fun at Trudeau’s questionable past, it was the wording that @Wake_n_Bacon used that propelled ‘I’m Gonna Tell My Kids’ into meme-dom. By uploading a photo of Mr. Popo and captioning it with “gonna tell my kids in 2055 that this was Justin Trudeau”, a new meme was born.

The Shift From Social Commentary To Fun

Two months after the original meme was posted, @_MTGBayBee shared a photo of Lil Wayne and used similar sentiment and identical wording. The next day @lowendfury went viral for sharing a photo of Gustavo “Gus” Fring from Breaking Bad and writing “gonna tell my kids this was Obama”.

After this, ‘I’m Gonna Tell My Kids’ became a fully-fledged meme with hundreds of similar tweets pouring in over the following days. The premise of the meme is simple: Upload a photo of a celebrity or character and caption it with the totally wrong person.

Most of the time, the image features a shared characteristic with the real person, but all of the time it’s hilarious.

Like with Brendan Urie being 2019’s Abe Lincoln.

Or A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Rey being the JFK and Jackie Kennedy we deserve.

Most of the memes are about our biggest music icons.

And sometimes they’re about our finest actors.

Even important figures in history take centre stage too.

And then every so often, the meme is turned on its head, and the photo and caption are actually true.