Is this Instagram blackface?
In 2018, it ought to be established that posing as though you are from a culture or race that does not belong to you is not OK. From Halloween blackface (no, please no), to wearing an Indian headdress to a fancy dress party (again, no), cultural appropriation is insensitive because of the unequal power structures that exist between cultures and races. Because you can’t put on a culture or a race for a day, and then take it off when you feel you’re done.
While this should be obvious, calling out people for cultural appropriation is a more complicated business. It raises difficult questions, like: Can you tell someone’s culture or race just from looking at them, or do you need a DNA test? Can you tell what someone’s culture or race is via the internet, when it’s so easy to manipulate online imagery? And who gets to decide where the line is when it comes to what is appropriation and what is acceptable?
All of these questions were thrown up yesterday after, on Twitter, @yeahboutella posted some apparent pictures of white girls on Instagram posing as black or mixed race, followed by a Tweet by @WannasWorld calling for more examples.
Can we start a thread and post all of the white girls cosplaying as black women on Instagram? Let’s air them out because this is ALARMING.— Wanna (@WannasWorld) November 7, 2018
Clearly, @yeahboutella and @WannasWorld weren’t alone in their frustration, because Wanna's request to “start a thread and post all of the white girls cosplaying as black women on Instagram” was met with tens of thousands of likes and retweets, and around 1000 responses, many of which appear to be examples of beauty bloggers appropriating black culture, or dramatically changing the colour of their skin with make-up or fake tan.
Let’s start with this scathing find. This is so insane. https://t.co/31k9uzbg39— Wanna (@WannasWorld) November 7, 2018
Comparisons were made between those deemed guilty and Rachel Dolezal, the American former civil rights activist who made headlines in 2015 for claiming to be African American while being of white-European ancestry.
To quote Wanna’s blog, which put it best: “From the projects to the runway, I’ve witnessed the endless looks that have been created and/or influenced by black women in the ghetto being stripped down and sold to the highest bidder in an effort to erase its origin. What was once billed as “ratchet”, has been widely appropriated by those who comfortably watch from the sidelines and regurgitated into some watered down, Instagram-baddie aesthetic.”
She continues: “Privilege allows these women to remove themselves from the hood yet perform an appropriated identity all the while denying black women’s humanity and spewing anti-blackness in the process. In addition, performative blackness has allowed non-black women to succeed while women from the ghetto are vilified for our existence."
Here are some of the reactions to @WannasWorld’s Tweet below.