There’s been a long and horrid history in which white people derive odd amounts of pleasure from commodifying and appropriating Black culture, while conveniently being able to dodge the experience of Black people due to the fact that they’re…well, white.
The latest in the trend is “blackfishing”, a term that derived from “catfishing”, which describes when a person pretends to be someone online that they are not in real life.
In the case of blackfishing, white women pose as women of colour on social media, whether through using excessive amounts of self-tanner, applying darker shades of makeup, or editing their pictures to appear darker than they really are.
You see, everyone wants to be Black until it’s time to be Black.
They want our looks and our culture until it’s convenient for them then they hang it up in their closet because to them, our culture is an outfit they take off and put on as they please.
They love music by Black artists, they join in on popular Black dances, they copy our hairstyles, and some even get their bodies surgically altered to mimic the features of Black women.
It’s sad, really, but more than anything it is wildly offensive.
When Black people face police brutality, mass incarceration, a pay gap, and other facets of systemic racism, these white girls who love to blackfish don’t have to deal with that.
They are able to slip off the fun and trendy side of Black culture and go through life benefiting from white privilege.
But we don’t get to escape it.
To us, it’s a harsh reality.
Police brutality and systemic racism rear their ugly heads often, but you, you who love our culture so much, don’t have to deal with that.
You won’t have to tell your children not to walk with a hood on or with their hands in their pockets.
You won’t have to tell your children to say “yes, sir” and “no, sir” and “thank you, sir” in every encounter they have with law enforcement.
You won’t have to tell them to keep their hands visible at all times.
You won’t have to tell them that they could lose their life over selling CD’s (Alton Sterling), having a busted taillight (Philando Castile), or playing with a toy gun (Tamir Rice.)
In all honesty, there is no problem with appreciating aspects of Black culture, but the issue arises when the boundary between appreciation and appropriation is blurred, and when you magically disappear when we need allyship in our fight against things like police brutality and racism.
Because we need all the voices we can get.
We need you to educate yourself and others, stand up for justice, not paint your face with makeup that’s five shades too dark.