What is the difference between blackface and blackfishing?
What is blackface?
Blackface refers to the act of artificially darkening your skin color or even "dressing up" as a person of color. From its conception, this term tells the story of racial inequality.
As CNN explains, blackface came to be as part of minstrel shows back in the 19th century. White artists would paint their skin darker using makeup and burnt cork, dress in tatters and exaggerate their features in order to "look Black" following specific stereotypes. According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the first minstrels did impressions of the African slaves taken to plantations in the American south and portrayed the Black community as lazy, ignorant and hypersexualized. These imitations were meant to entertain white audiences; however, they were actually degrading and offensive.
For many, many years, Argentinian schools continued the tradition of dressing up boys as street vendors and girls as "candomberas," painting their faces black with burnt cork as part of the celebrations of national holidays. But was the existence of black people and their participation in the foundation of our country ever acknowledged during History class? How were people of color portrayed in our collective imagination?
Blackfishing: skin color is not equivalent to nail polish
“This is a racist action any way you look at it. It forces us into a stereotype for Black women. Today, it seems ‘being Black’ without actually being Black is fashionable. We aren’t allowed to be on the cover of magazines, we don’t fit into beauty standards, we are mocked because of our natural hair, our thick lips and our wide hips. Our skin color takes the worst hits.”
Jennifer Parker for Mujeres que no fueron tapa
As explained by Afroféminas, the term "blackfishing" was created from the merging of the words "black" and "catfishing" (the act of being deceitful about who you are using pictures of other people). Thus, blackfishing is pretending to be a Black person online.
This happens, for example, when very popular pop singers use tanning beds to make their skin look darker, when they undergo cosmetic surgeries to make their bodies look more similar to those of people of color (such as thicker lips, smaller waists and bigger thighs), when they wear hairstyles or talk using vernacular taken from the Black community.
Activist Jennifer Parker has posted several videos as reels in her Instagram account to explain how women within the music industry participate in blackfishing. Black female bodies tend to be hypersexualized and such representation is profitted by the market, to reach wider audiences through the commodification of non-white identities. Did you know about this?