Stemming from the offensive traditions of blackface minstrelsy, the term “digital blackface” refers to the online appropriation of Black people by white and non-Black users. This kind of performance can take many forms, with the most widespread being the overuse of GIFs featuring Black individuals, mainly celebrities. Critic and educator Lauren Michelle Jackson notes that these reaction GIFs are used for “oddly specific yet also universal situations that we all can relate to”, though the overuse of GIFs showing excessive behaviour or over exaggerated emotions performed by Black people online contributes to perpetuating harmful, real-life stereotypes about Black people (Jackson). Another, more deliberately harmful form of digital blackface occurs when white or non-Black users claim to be Black by creating fake accounts under a fake, stereotyped name and a stolen profile picture. Jackson states that white supremacists have been known to perform this type of digital blackface to legitimize hate against Black people under the guise of being Black themselves (Jackson). The hashtag #yourslipisshowing was created by scholar Shafiqah Hudson as a way of calling out these individuals online. For more, please see Jackson, Eordogh.
Sources and Further Reading:
Eordogh, Fruzsina. “Black Feminists Are USA’s Best Defence Against Meme Warefare, Fake News, Foreign and Domestic Trolls.” Forbes, 9 Mar. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/fruzsinaeordogh/2018/03/09/black-feminists-are-usas-best-defense-against-meme-warfare-fake-news-foreign-and-domestic-trolls/?sh=3c38967c5de5.
Jackson, Laur M. “Memes and Misogynoir.” The Awl, 28 Aug. 2014, www.theawl.com/2014/08/memes-and-misogynoir/.
Jackson, Lauren Michelle. “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs.” Teen Vogue, 2 Aug. 2017, www.teenvogue.com/story/digital-blackface-reaction-gifs.
Parham, Jason. “TikTok and the Evolution of Digital Blackface.” Wired, 4 Aug. 2020, www.wired.com/story/tiktok-evolution-digital-blackface/.