Digital Blackface: Modern Blackface

I hear the word blackface and think of the minstrel shows that I learned about in AP US History.  I think that people probably don’t do this today-although I was horrified to read that in fact well-known comedians/actors like Robert Downey Jr and Sarah Silverman did this recently.  Anyway, like lynching of black men and women being subtly given the new name of police shootings and just under the big umbrella term police-brutality, blackface has a new name that is subtly using the anonymity of black bodies in order to express extreme emotions of non-black users on the internet, and I find it as bad as the original.


The article We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface is a crucial piece of literature that is a good step in recognizing that GIFs can be inherently racist and can be blackface.  Lauren Michelle Jackson uses popular GIFs to define what digital blackface is, and the fact that these are commonly used is problematic.  This is because black people are not stereotypical objects to be used to show frustration, shock, rage, and extreme happiness.  Although the article nor I am advocating for not using any image of any black person, we need to be aware of how we are using these images.


A thought that I hadn’t pieced together in my head until reading this article grabbed my attention that otherwise would have left me wondering where the line is between what is digital blackface and not.  And obviously I shouldn’t be the number one source as a white man.  But Jackson said in We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface that these GIFs of black bodies serve “an uneasy reminder of the way our presence is extra visible in life, every day, in ways that get us profiled, harassed, mocked, beaten, and killed”.  Jackson, most likely a black woman by way of using pronouns such as “our” and “us”, explains that these GIFs illuminate the light in which black people are profiled, harassed, mocked, beaten and killed.  In other words, black people are so much so stereotyped, that these stereotypes are getting them killed.

This image is an example of Digital Blackface because it stereotypes black women as sassy.

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