Let’s talk about digital “blackface”

Social media has brought forth many new ideas and inventions that we can use to create, enhance, & promote our social media pages. For example, A man named Steve Wilhite created what is called a GIF (pronounced as JIF). A GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, as stated by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a computer file format for the compression and storage of visual digital information”. Social media users will take a GIF and add a caption to it in order to help their followers visualize how they are actually feeling rather than just reading a caption and not knowing if someone is sarcastic or not. With that being said, GIF’s are created with animations and clips from movies, TV shows, or even regular people who get caught on camera during an emotional moment. GIF’s are being used everyday because everyday someone has an emotion they want to display in the hopes that their post will encourage more interaction from their followers. Interaction is similar to social action which, according to Weber in Digital Media and Society, is “behavior that is oriented towards the behavior of others”. More followers, more reposts or retweets, and more comments under their post.

So before today, I never thought of anything negative when it came to GIF’s and how they are used. I only thought of them as funny and part of the reason I even like social media to begin with. I assumed most people thought the same until I read an article on the Teen Vogue website, and it actually made me think.

Lauren Michele Jackson, the author of the article, wrote about “Digital Blackface”. According to Jackson, digital blackface is “used to describe various types of minstrel performance that become available in cyberspace.” So basically users using blackface through their digital presence. For those who don’t know, blackface was used by white people who chose to cover their faces in black to imitate and make fun black people and our culture. It’s beyond racist, and if done today, would cause chaos. Blackface is one of the dirtiest, cruelest, and most racisgiphy (1)t things any performer, actor, or even a regular person could do.

It’s true there are many GIF’s created with black people as the main subject, but does that mean any person who isn’t black that uses it is practicing blackface, but from behind their screens? Jackson believes that the stereotypes associated with black people are being used and created as GIF’s in which non-black people use for hyperbolic emotions which she believes is considered as digital blackface.


I’m not going to lie. I understand most of everything she is saying. However, as a black woman myself, I don’t take it that serious. I honestly don’t think non-black users are ugiphy (2).gifsing GIF’s of black people to make fun of the stereotypes given to us by white people.

I truly believe it’s all for fun and jokes. If I use a GIF of a white girl who can’t dance, am I not doing the same thing. Blackface is a term that shouldn’t be used or taken lightly, and I feel as if she could have called it something else. I mean in all honesty, I feel like my people are some of the funniest and most interesting people on the planet, and if someone wants to use a GIF of when one of us has a moment, then do it. As long as the caption isn’t racist or distasteful, I don’t have a problem with it. These days my people have a lot to be sensitive about, so I get why she wrote this article and what she wants us to see, but again, I just don’t think it’s that serious. Especially not serious enough to call it blackface rather it’s digital or not, that term should not be thrown around.



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