In 2020, we saw the Black Lives Matter movement fight against explicit forms of racial suppression and police brutality. However, in the eye of that storm, many forms of implicit microaggressions have gone overlooked. Of these, modern-day blackface is now taking over social media, and it needs to be stopped.
The word “blackfishing” defines how social media influencers of European descent alter their appearance to appear of minority descent. Individuals using blackface in attempts to appear Black, brownface in attempts to appear brown-skinned and yellowface in attempts to appear Asian are some examples. Celebrities and social media influencers are the reason for the rise of this issue.
When I was younger, I would travel to predominantly white countries where I would see people’s skin tones resemble my own. I soon realized it was only excessive tanning on pale skin.
I’ve faced my fair share of racism against the tone of my skin, which is something a white person will never have to deal with. However, seeing white people become famous for painting themselves the deep skin tone I was often belittled for negatively impacts my self-esteem. Why did I face injustice while existing with my natural features, but white influencers are now considered beautiful for mimicking those same features?
It is an issue that has literally taken a new face over the years. All over Instagram, we see women and girls tan excessively beyond their natural skin tone. This phenomenon has now carried from this online platform to real life, on college campuses. You can see overly tanned skin in the middle of winter, which is not naturally possible. It is achieved through artificial sprays and tanning beds. Darker skin tones are praised when artificial but demonized when natural. It is offensive to students who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color); it devalues our struggles as people of color throughout history.
“With my interaction with people on this campus, (blackfishing) is coming from a place of ignorance,” SU sophomore Anwule Onwaeze said. “I think media has a lot to do with it because, not to excuse these girls, they are probably just doing it because that is ‘in,’ and they do not want to take the time to educate themselves and understand.”
As we become more educated on what is considered inappropriate to say or do, modern-day blackface is a major issue that needs to be considered.
Although a sensitive topic that requires caution, blackfishing continues to require further discussion, especially in the SU community. Devaluing our struggles occurs when pale-skinned individuals can’t be identified from minorities. The #NotAgainSU movement formed when racist incidents came to light, and now the SU community needs to be held accountable for its actions of cultural appropriation.
We need to address the issue of blackfishing, as well as brownfishing and yellowfishing, with earnest dedication. Where white social media influencers imitate, they can instead use their platforms to address racial discrimination. Where white college students appropriate, they can instead use their platform to address on-campus injustices.
The more you become educated on issues of cultural appropriation, the less likely you should be to partake in it.