‘I wish I was black, today more than ever,’ says one
It’s been two weeks since demonstrators first took to the streets in the biggest global protests against police brutality and systemic racism in a generation. Sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer on May 25, the protests have begun to make real-world change: racist statues have been removed – or toppled – in the UK; cities in the US have pledged to defund the police; and companies are finally addressing their problems with diversity.
One group seemingly still clueless about how to support Black Lives Matter is influencers. First, they were posing at protests for clout, and now they’re doing blackface to ‘show solidarity’ with the movement.
In an Instagram post, satirist and socio-political activist Saint Hoax shared screenshots of influencers who had painted their skin Black, along with a brief history of blackface. They wrote: “How can you ‘spread awareness’ about a subject you know so little about? If you genuinely care about a cause, the least you can do is educate yourself about it.”
They continued: “It’s infuriating that we still need to educate people about the racist and painful history of blackface. We shouldn’t be having this conversation in 2020.”
One post by Souhila Ben Lachhab sees the Algerian influencer in half blackface, holding hands with herself. In the caption, she wrote: “We’re one. Just because we are black on the outside, doesn’t mean we are black on the inside. Racist people are the true black heart ones. They are black on the inside, though they do not know it.”
Another photo shared by @fantasticfhd sees a portrait of the influencer in blackface, with lighter skinned hands resting on his face and chest. “Humanity should be our race,” he wrote. “Love should be our religion.”
Influencer Tania Saleh shared a “photo montage” of a black woman with her own face Photoshopped in. In the accompanying caption, she wrote: “I wish I was black, today more than ever… Sending my love and full support to the people who demand equality and justice for all races anywhere in the world.” When called out for blackface by her followers in the comments, the influencer replied: “I have posted this with love and I will not remove it despite all your offensive comments.”
One influencer, Rashmi Zurail Mann, called out by Saint Hoax has deleted a “make-up tutorial” video she shared, which saw her paint her face Black and write words across her chest. In an apology post, she wrote: “I apologise for creating a work that was deemed insensitive. I could not express the colourism I intended to express, (which was colourism that) Indian’s face, and how Black Lives Matter has given a voice to this discussion even in our country of deeply entrenched racism.”
Two of the influencers criticised in Saint Hoax’s post have since made their Instagram accounts private.
Blackface gained popularity during the 19th century, when white actors would paint their faces to portray caricatures of Black people, as part of ‘minstrel’ shows (at the time, Black performers were not allowed on stage). These caricatures would enforce racist stereotypes of Black people as lazy, criminal, and dim-witted, all for the entertainment of white people.
These ‘minstrel’ shows were often the only depiction of Black people that white people saw, encouraging them to feel superior to Black people, who they would mock, and allowing them to think less about the horrors of slavery.
Instead of using racism, here’s a number of ways you can support Black Lives Matter even if you can’t attend protests. You can also utilise this list of anti-racism resources to educate yourself and stay engaged.