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Influencers Doing Blackface In ‘Solidarity’ Proves How Much Work Needs To Be Done

by : Cameron Frew on : 10 Jun 2020 13:22
Influencers Doing Blackface In 'Solidarity' Proves How Much Work Needs To Be Donesouhilaofficial/taniasaleh/Instagram

Whether it be cries for clout or earnest naivety, influencers doing blackface to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement are a living indictment of white privilege in the face of systemic racism. 

George Floyd’s death incited a rippling wave of anger. Now, it’s a worldwide tsunami: cities everywhere have been filled with ‘I can’t breathe’ placards; slave trader statues are being pulled down; and moves are being made to defund US police departments to combat brutality.

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While chants echo through the air, the online reception is on a scale the likes of which activism has never seen. Petitions, footage, resources, documentaries, films: all shared at the hands of netizens. However, some influencers believe they’re taking a step further by doing blackface – thereby ensuring racism’s survival, not curbing it.

It’s not a huge subsection of the web, by any means. However, with their social prowess, promoting blackface as an act of conscientious protest with Black Lives Matter could become a dangerous trend for those unaware of the severity of the photos.

Blackface became a highly popularised form of entertainment in the 19th century, with white people painting themselves as caricatures of black people for ‘minstrel’ shows; vastly perpetuating harmful stereotypes such as being ‘dim-witted, lazy, superstitious, hypersexual, criminal and cowardly’, for the entertainment of white audiences.

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It’s an exiled practice now, with any inkling of blackface often struck down with the wrath of critics online. Recently, an early Jimmy Fallon sketch involving an impersonation of Chris Rock landed him in hot water, while Little Britain has been removed from the airwaves for their use of blackface.

One such Algerian influencer, Souhila Ben Lachhab, posted in half-blackface, writing: ‘Just because we are black on the outside, doesn’t mean that we are black on the inside. Racist people are the true black heart ones. They are black on the inside, though they do not know it.’

Another influencer, Tania Saleh, posted a photo of her face photoshopped onto a black woman, writing: ‘I wish I was black, today more than ever… Sending my love and full support to the people who demand equality and justice for all races anywhere in the world.’

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In response to this egregious circulation of blackface, Saint Hoax – a prolific Instagram political commentator and satirist – condemned the users in a grouped post, calling them out for refusing to take the photos down despite criticism and supposedly spreading awareness ‘about a subject you know so little about’.

They wrote: ‘If you genuinely care about a cause, the least you can do is educate yourself about it. It’s infuriating that we still need to educate people about the racist and painful history of blackface. We shouldn’t be having this conversation in 2020.’

Saint Hoax also added a quote from Dr. David J. Leonard, a professor at Washington State University’s Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies, which read: 

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It is time to stop with the dismissive arguments those that describe these offensive acts as pranks, ignorance and youthful indiscretions. Blackface is never a neutral form of entertainment, but an incredibly loaded site for the production of damaging stereotypes… the same stereotypes that undergird individual and state violence, American racism, and a centuries worth of injustice.

Efforts to support Black Lives Matter with blackface aren’t just misguided, but detrimental. Simply, it’s perpetuating the theft and manipulation of black lives for white people’s gain; a selfish, racist act of performative activism. Don’t just do the right thing: do better.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Viral, Activism, Black Lives Matter, blackface, Influencer, Now, Racism

Credits

Saint Hoax/Instagram
  1. Saint Hoax/Instagram

    @sainthoax