When the video broke it shook the Internet.
It was an unbelievably horrifying depiction of overt racism with a white man insisting that a black woman move to the back of the bus where she belonged, much to the horror of everyone else on the Brooklyn, N.Y., bus.
In cellphone footage posted online, the white passenger could be heard telling the woman to move, demanding her seat. The woman refused, telling the man that he was being racist. Other passengers chimed in telling him to go sit at the back of the bus.
“See this is why we need Donald Sterling,” the man responded, referring to the disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner who was recorded making racist rants and telling a half-black female friend not to associate with other black people.
Unbelievable as the situation seemed, it was unbelievable for a reason.
It turned out that the video was a prank put together by Zaida Pugh aka Ms. Muffin. It was a hoax that many fell for, including The Root, which found the video posted on another site full of posts from enraged commenters. Pugh’s website and YouTube clearly identify her as a regular trickster. But people online fell for it and fell hard, with rage at the blatant display surging quickly.
Why would Pugh pull such elaborate pranks that sometimes have scary overtones and incur deep-rooted reactions?
“It’s … like a wake-up call,” Pugh tells The Root. “The stuff that happens in society today that we try not to pay too much mind on … like racism or like before, I did a video of AIDS and stuff and being protected … it’s stuff that happens like every day and we don’t really talk about it much.
“Or we talk about it, but we don’t do anything,” she adds. “My pranks kind of wake people up and also see how people feel about [an issue] … I want to see how people feel about it and see what they have to say and how do they react to it, and also I’m trying to do something different from most pranksters [and] have some kind of meaning to it.”