Modern-Day Blackface

We live in a day and age where anything could possibly be a trigger on controversial issues. That said, there is still a huge lack of knowledge when it comes to different cultural aspects of many people’s lives. The information is out there! But for some people, however, it’s as if they don’t want to ask questions, or are unwilling to educate themselves when it comes to the possibility of offending someone. Either they truly don’t realize what they’re doing is wrong, or they are culturally appropriating out of pure ignorance.

Let’s get straight to the point: blackface is deeply rooted in American history and has established many stereotypes in show business. According to American Heritage, “Northern white men blacked their faces, adopted heavy dialects, and performed what they claimed were black songs, dances, and jokes to entertain white Americans.” This began in the early 1800s, and through out history white people shamed people of African ancestry for their looks and appearances. The National Museum of African American History and Culture states, “Blackface and the codifying of blackness—language, movement, deportment, and character—as caricature persists through mass media and in public performances today.” You have people dress in certain ways, change their hairstyles, and even go as far as darkening their skin just to be apart of this new millennial trend.

Recently blackface has evolved to bronzer, highlighter, and heavy Instagram filters. From the Kardashians to the social media realm of make up artists (both men and women), there has been a subtle yet disturbing presence of blackface in the fashion/beauty industry. Black models even get replaced or disregarded by white models that have their skin and faces spray tanned. Some models even say that it’s their “natural tan” even though there is a huge tendency for photographers to darken fair-skinned models. With an emphasis on camera lighting and photoshop, there is no end to people using creativity to justify their actions.

Men and women are both at fault for these awful transformations, and need to be called out. This is something the media rarely addresses, and if it is, it’s shrugged off with the same apology of, “We didn’t think it would make anyone mad” or “we really didn’t know.” You would think this is avoidable, but it’s just another way of making money. Many white people simply do not grasp how they’re making African American culture a trend by profiting off of these negative aspects of representation.

“When White people take anything from Black people… they are no worse than their ancestors who have historically taken so much from Blackness to gain power and wealth. It is behavior rooted in the same concept that created a ‘Black’ race and a ‘White’ race for the sake of oppressing one and bolstering another,” writes Hip Latina. Cultural appropriation is one thing, but not supporting people of color and trying to fight against these stereotypes is another. You cannot try to morph yourself to look like another individual and not even think of how much discrimination and hate they have faced. White Instagram influencers, celebrities, and even your close friends who participate in this behavior need to be educated and informed. As for the black community, take pride in the skin you’re in and feel empowered to be undeniably original.