Blackfishing: Cultural appropriation gone mad

Scrolling down my Twitter feed, I generally see all sorts of madness. The madness I’m going to share today, some of you may already know about, others not so much. This madness is essentially cultural appropriation on steroids…

BLACKFISHING

The Independent describes Blackfishing as a “recently coined term used to describe someone accused of pretending to be black on social media by using makeup, hair products and in some cases, surgery to drastically change their appearance[1]”.

Blackfish1

I’d be lying if I said I was outraged the moment I saw the Twitter feed because initially I didn’t see what the big deal was. However, as I scrolled down and saw just how many influencers are doing this plus the extent to which they are transforming themselves, I was flabbergasted. The majority of people taking part in this phenomenon are using make up and fake tan etc. to obtain their desired skin tone however, there are some influencers who have gone even further and get melanin injections!

Not only is Blackfishing cultural appropriation, it’s also the modern-day blackface. Speaking to The Independent, Writer, Stephanie Yeboah eloquently explains why Blackfishing is a type of blackface

“What we are seeing – especially on social media – is another way of white women co-opting, profiting and benefiting from appropriating another race, and brands are encouraging this. A lot of these women receive endorsements from beauty and fashion brands based on the ‘black aesthetic’ but unfortunately when it comes to using real black women for campaigns, we are often sidelined and forgotten about.1

This, once again, sends the message, loud and clear, to black women that our features are beautiful… just not on us. As I was reading the #blackfishing Twitter feed one thing that really struck me was the ignorance of so many people. Below are just two examples:

Tweet1Tweet 2

Of course, there is nothing wrong with getting a fake tan but the thing that truly baffles me about comments like the above is that when you see before and after pictures of these “blackfishers” it’s very clear that they’re not simply after a sun-kissed glow. Exhibit A, below

blackfish2.jpg

To some, it may seem that we black girls are trying to spoil your fun. Plus, all individuals have autonomy over their own bodies so they can do what they want, right? Wanna Thompson, the writer who started the viral Twitter thread describes white women who do this as “dipping their foot into the pond without fully getting themselves wet1”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

As with many other forms of cultural appropriation, the huge issue with Blackfishing is that it undermines black people in so many ways. Being black is not a trend and as black people we do not have the option of washing off the blackness when it’s no longer “in fashion” or when we’re being discriminated against because of the colour of our skin or when we’re being hypersexualised.

In addition to this, many black people have had to grow to love their features because, thanks to Eurocentric beauty standards that have plagued the society we live in for far too long, as young people, our fuller lips, kinky hair and thicker thighs were never deemed beautiful. So, excuse us for getting just a little offended that being black has now become a trend that some white women have adopted, with none of the backlash we’ve had to face all our lives.

Paula M

P.S. we’ve got our next debate coming up on 3rd May and we’ll be discussing ‘As Black Brits, do we owe anything to the motherland?’. Grab your free tickets here

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/women/blackfishing-what-is-it-influencers-instagram-makeup-racism-black-white-social-media-a8667961.html

https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/nepzyg/white-girls-instagram-blackface-blackfishing

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