''Blackfishing" Is The Modern Day Version Of Blackface
Blackfishing is the modern version of blackface. This form of blackface and its use has emerged through social media.
We are living in an age where non-black people are using a modern form of blackface that enables them to get opportunities because of this “Black Aesthetic.” However, black women struggle to get the same opportunities that people who blackfish do.
Blackfishing: When non-Black people “fish” for features that make them appear, Black, mixed-race or racially ambiguous, like altering skin tone, hairstyles or facial and body modification.
Why Do People Blackfish?
Black features are seen as marketable and desirable in society, only when our features are represented by people who are not black. For instance, when a non-Black person decides to wear box braids or cornrows it is seen as stylish and exotic, whereas if a black person wears these styles it is viewed as unkempt and unprofessional. Furthermore, it is these features that people who blackfish profit from. When people blackfish and post themselves in this version of modern-day blackface it sparks outrage, black outrage in particular.
Black outrage is when black people notice non-black people appropriating our culture and they call them out for it and bring awareness as to why it is wrong. This initiates widespread attention and anger within the community because, we, as black people face colourism, featurism and texturism because of our natural features and we have received criticism because of our natural facial features.
Therefore, to see people who are not black try to look like us to fit an aesthetic dismays us as our features are something we live with 24/7 and face racial discrimination for. They are not something we can simply remove. This conversation gives the person who is blackfishing a major platform as they will be receiving an immense amount of press and press is good press even if it is negative; it is still gives them attention and it gains them popularity.
Blackface is a term used to describe a form of theatrical make-up used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a caricature of a black person.
How Blackfishing Translates Into Modern Day Blackface
Blackface’s American origins can be traced back to minstrel shows. During the mid to late nineteenth century, white actors would routinely use black grease paint on their faces when depicting plantation slaves and free blacks on stage. Blackface became a theatrical mask for white people to use as a source of comedy and for their entertainment. Blackface reinforces the idea that black people are appropriate targets of ridicule and mockery and reminds us of stereotypes about black criminality, and danger.
"Everyone wants to be black until it's time to be black."
During the 19th century, it was profitable for white people to wear blackface during their comedic performances; blackface was something they could simply put on and wash off. We need to acknowledge that they still hade their white privilege masked on them as their faces were plastered in black grease. As minstrel shows gained popularity negative stereotypes of African Americans continued to brew, making it so significant as they play a major role in the stereotypes and stigmas that are attached to black people today.
Blackfishers do the same thing if we used the same ideology, excessively tan and get facial features to match those of black people and appropriate our hairstyles for success. Afterwards, they are still able to take off this "black aesthetic" and have their whiteness with them as they step out into the world. Whereas with us, black people, we are black 24/7 and have to work twice as hard for the opportunities those who blackfish receive whilst having to face featurism, colourism and texturism for our very own natural features that those who blackfish put on for success.
Black women cannot just take off their features and swap them to be accepted by society. So is it fair for brands to promote white beauty influencers who strive to look black, biracial or ambiguous through blackfishing to receive opportunities that black women themselves should receive because they themselves are black?
Blackfishing should not be normalised because it is another method of non-black people are co-opting, profiting and benefiting from appropriating a race that isn’t theirs; are race where the people of that race struggle to get the same level of opportunity in society. This makes it so harmful, as brands are encouraging and supporting this. On the other hand, when it comes to black women for the brands’ campaigns, they are often sidelined and forgotten making it unequal and unjust.
About the author
I am a Race, Society and Culture writer. I write opinion pieces and personal essays on the Black experience in our society. My articles provide readers with actionable takeaways they can take to aim for change and progression.