A new column published on Teen Vogue on Wednesday by writer Lauren Michele Jackson claims that white users online who post GIFs of Black people for their reaction GIFs are enacting a form of “digital blackface.”
“Digital blackface does not describe intent, but an act — the act of inhabiting a black persona,” she writes. “Employing digital technology to co-opt a perceived cache or black cool, too, involves playacting blackness in a minstrel-like tradition.”
Jackson goes on to say that the GIF use is a way for white people to rely on Black people to do their emotional work.
“Ultimately, black people and black images are thus relied upon to perform a huge amount of emotional labor online on behalf of nonblack users. We are your sass, your nonchalance, your fury, your delight, your annoyance, your happy dance, your diva, your shade, your ‘yaas’ moments. The weight of reaction GIFing, period, rests on our shoulders. Intertwine this proliferation of our images with the other ones we’re as likely to see — death, looped over and over — and the Internet becomes an exhausting experience,” she writes.
Someone explain to me the point of fat shaming Sean Spicer? Is it just to humiliate him even more? What is this?! pic.twitter.com/70jMDM7SVQ
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) June 20, 2017
— Dory (@Dory) July 16, 2017
Me… all day today. pic.twitter.com/OwpCahsMcG
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) July 11, 2017
“If you find yourself always reaching for a black face to release your inner sass monster, maybe consider going the extra country mile and pick this nice Taylor Swift GIF instead.”
However, Bre Payton of The Federalist disagrees: “Accusing someone of making fun of African-Americans by donning blackface is a serious thing indeed, which is why throwing that term around casually is problematic. When people share a GIF of a black person, they are not painting themselves with blackface makeup to perpetuate a stereotype or bar people entry from theater or even public life. Often they are not even stereotyping, given that posting GIFs is by nature an expression of shared humanity.”
What do you think, Grio fam? Is the Teen Vogue article right, or is it a stretch?