Author: Parker Mathias
I was moved to do this project by backlash I had seen in regards to the concept of ‘digital blackface’ after the publishing of the Teen Vogue article about it, by Laura Michele Jackson, in August of 2017. I thought my circle of friends were fairly accepting and open-minded, but mostly balked at the idea that they might need to reflect on their reliance on black over-reaction and performance on the internet.
For this project I did a deep dive and tried to gather sources from different political leanings to try and understand various viewpoints on the subject. I thought it was weird that otherwise self-professed liberal people ended up in exactly the same camp as hardcore right wing commenters when it came to ‘digital blackface’; the almost-universal answer to the issue seemed to be that acknowledging race at all in reaction gifs and images was the real racism.
It seemed, and still seems to me that this argument just lets the openly racist among us operate with greater freedom. Reproduced images of black people can’t protest when a white person uses them to advance white supremacy. When Rachel Dolezal was exposed, the right wing seized on the momentum presented by the idea of ‘fake’ black people to attack Movement for Black Lives activist Shaun King. The difference between conservatives weaponizing entertaining images of black people today and conservatives attending minstrel shows in the 1920’s is one of degrees.