A white person using a black reaction GIF over social media now represents a form of “digital blackface,”a Teen Vogue op-ed claimed Wednesday.
There’s a problem when non-black people use black reactions Gifs over social media because they are playing into stereotypes about the black community, writer Lauren Michele Jackson claimed.
“If there’s one thing the Internet thrives on, it’s hyperbole and the overrepresentation of black people in GIFing everyone’s daily crises plays up enduring perceptions and stereotypes about black expression. And when nonblack users flock to these images, they are playacting within those stereotypes in a manner reminiscent of an unsavory American tradition,” Jackson wrote.
Many of these black reaction GIFS Jackson refers to feature black people in various stages of emotions: happy, angry, sad etc, Jackson notes. Though these gifs express a wide range of human emotions, it’s problematic for non black people to use them because it only further reinforces cultural stereotypes about excessive emotions in black people, Jackson claimed.
“After all, our culture frequently associates black people with excessive behaviors, regardless of the behavior at hand. Black women will often be accused of yelling when we haven’t so much as raised our voice …” Jackson wrote. “It’s an implication that points toward a strange way of thinking: When we do nothing, we’re doing something, and when we do anything, our behavior is considered ‘extreme.'”
Having to represent the source of people’s emotions online can be exhausting, Jackson continued.
“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,” Jackson said.
Blackface was used during the 19th century in minstrel shows to exaggerate and mock stereotypes about black people.