CNN Writer Says White People Using Black Memes is ‘Digital Blackface’
A CNN writer has spurred a healthy debate about Internet culture, and has posed the question of whether it’s okay for white people to use Black memes … he says it isn’t.
John Blake published a piece Sunday that’s gotten a big reaction online. It’s titled, “What’s ‘digital blackface?’ And why is it wrong when White people use it?” In the analysis article, he makes his argument — namely, using these memes/GIFs is modern-day minstrel show fare.
For starters, he describes digital blackface this way … “[It] involves White people play-acting at being Black,” citing a Teen Vogue writer who defined it. He goes on to quote that author as saying, “[T]he Internet thrives on White people laughing at exaggerated displays of Blackness, reflecting a tendency among some to see ‘Black people as walking hyperbole.'”
Blake continues to reference Teen Vogue in zeroing in further … “[Digital blackface] includes displays of emotion stereotyped as excessive: so happy, so sassy, so ghetto, so loud… our dial is on 10 all the time — rarely are black characters afforded subtle traits or feelings.”
Now for the haymaker from Blake, who says digital blackface is wrong and that it should be halted. The reason … he says it’s embedded in racist traditions of making fun of Black people — and while Twitter users in 2023 might not necessarily see it that way from the outside looking in, that’s certainly how it’s being perceived by many … intentionally or not.
There are countless Black memes that the Internet regularly recycles — including some that feature famous people from TV shows and/or movies — but there’s one that Blake focuses on in particular as his Exhibit A … namely, the 2012 Sweet Brown interview from Oklahoma.
Brown had just experienced a legitimate tragedy at the time — she was dealing with an apartment fire — and while her remarks were animated/memorable … they were coming from a serious place of fear. And yet, the internet made a whole autotune song out of it — seemingly discounting her real-life feelings and simply making a joke out of the whole thing.
Ditto for Antoine Dodson‘s TV news interview from years ago, where his family also had just gone through a truly terrifying encounter — but his comments also went viral.
As you can imagine … Twitter is having a field day with this. Some are calling Blake’s take absolutely absurd, and just another “woke” request. Others, however, are saying he’s right.