On Wednesday, Teen Vogue posted a column about a common social media trend that they are claiming is racist. The writer of the column, Lauren Michele Jackson, was bringing attention to the idea of “digital blackface.”
Jackson claimed that when white people post any sort of GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) with a black person in it, they are participating in racism. She noted that black people seem to be displayed most often in GIFs and that “black reaction GIFs have become so widespread that they’ve practically become synonymous with just reaction GIFs.”
Jackson was referring specifically to reactionary GIFs, where someone uses an image to portray their emotions or reactions. Jackson said that this is bad practice because of the “excessive behaviors” that the black culture is frequently associated with.
She wrote, “Digital blackface does not describe intent, but an act- the act of inhabiting a black persona. Employing digital technology to co-opt a perceived cache or black cool, too, involves playacting blackness in a minstrel-like tradition.”
The “tradition” the author is referring to is the historical vaudeville days in the theater when white actors would paint themselves with makeup to resemble an African-American person. The author believes that posting an image of a black person as a form of reaction is a new form of blackface.
Jackson wrote, “Ultimately black people and black images are thus relied upon to perform a huge amount of emotional labor on behalf of nonblack users. We are your sass, your nonchalance, your fury, your delight, your annoyance, your happy dance, your diva, your shade, your ‘yaas’ moments.”
She continued, “The weight of reaction GIFing, period, rests on our shoulders, Intertwine this proliferation of our images with the other ones we’re as likely to see- death, looped over and over- and the Internet becomes an exhausting experience.”
After describing the problem, Jackson gave some advice for white people that are tempted to use reactionary GIF of a black person.
She wrote, “If you find yourself always reaching for a black face to release your inner sass monster, maybe consider going the extra country mile and pick this nice Taylor Swift GIF instead.”
What do you think about this? Do you think that this is a form of racism and everyone should be more conscious of it? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook. This isn’t the only controversial article that Teen Vogue has published. Recently, a columnist claimed that CNN and mainstream media is more accurate than the Bible.