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Definition of Digital Blackface

Digital Blackface


  • Digital Blackface: When a white person uses a meme containing an image of a person of color. To the white person, this may seem innocuous, as the meme is just expressing an idea like joy, despair or frustration, but it is disrespectful to people of color since a white person is using an image of black person to express an idea. Hence, it's a type of blackface and racist.

    Example in a sentence: "I wish white people would stop posting memes with images of Eddie Murphy or Niel DeGrasse Tyson. This is a form of digital blackface: White people using images of black people to convey ideas. It's racist."
    From Wired magazine (August 4, 2020): Digital blackface can be either text-based (abusing Black vernacular) or image-based (trotting out memes or GIFs of Black celebrities) On TikTok, digital blackface can be Whites taking on Black rhythms, gestures, affect, slang to mimic black people.
    From Twitter: "Digital blackface is using memes, GIFs, or videos where white people use images or characteristics of black people to convey an idea. Basically, it's where whites use pictures of blacks to convey emotions.
    Tweets by Alyssa Milano (August 23, 2020): "If you are not a #POC or #WWoC you should not be using POC is digital blackface, people. Just STOP. Indidentaly it applies to using Gifs with #POC or #WWoC as well. Get educated. #digitalBlackFace.
    By Kamila Newton (Yahoo News, August 13, 2020): First came texting, then came emojis - and then GIFs, often starring Black celebrities like RuPaul, Steve Harvey, J. Alexander and Oprah, to quickly express a range of feelings, from "Yasss!" to "Hell, no!" But the popularity of those GIFs among non-Black users has ushered in a problem: the rise of "digital blackface." That term, first coined by Lauren Michele Jackson, a college fellow in Northwestern University's English department, is used to describe what she called, in a recent Teen Vogue essay, "various types of minstrel performance that become available in cyberspace.
    Black Lives Matter organizer (Instagram, August 19, 2020): Digital blackface is when white people post memes, GIFs, videos, or other images of black people. It's racist af and needs to stop.
    Naomi Day (Medium, Jan 3, 2020): Digital blackface is non-Black folks using Black people in GIFs or memes to convey their own thoughts or emotions. Digital blackface dehumanizes Black people by flattening our stories.
    From Facebook (August 22, 2020): Digital blackface not only is about whites posting GIFs of blacks but it's also when white people use POC skins in video games. If you are white playing with a black or brown skin, then this is digital blackface.
    From Instagram (August 24, 2020):

    Digital blackface can include:

    - White people posting images, memes, or GIFs of black people - White people imitating black culture or slang - White people using black or brown emojis - White people using black or brown skins in video games.

    Last edited on Aug 26 2020. Submitted by Rashawn on Aug 20 2020.

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