Blackfishing: Here’s what it is and why people are doing it


Initially there was blackface. Now there’s “Blackfishing.”

The term has actually been progressively in the news to explain habits by White performers who seem mimicing the look of Black individuals. It’s not a compliment.

The most recent example is pop star Iggy Azalea, who has actually drawn criticism for her appearance in a brand-new video.

Here’s a take a look at what Blackfishing is and why individuals are doing it.

The term concerned prominence in a Twitter thread 2 years earlier when reporter Wanna Thompson stated she discovered White celebs and influencers cosplaying as Black females on social networks.

“Blackfishing is when White public figures, influencers and the like do everything in their power to appear Black,” Thompson informed CNN today. “Whether that means to tan their skin excessively in an attempt to achieve ambiguity, and wear hairstyles and clothing trends that have been pioneered by Black women.”

Critics have actually explained it as a kind of blackface, stating it develops an unsafe paradox by commemorating Black appeal and aesthetic appeals – however just when highlighted by White individuals.

“Instead of appreciating Black culture from the sidelines, there’s this need to own it, to participate in it without wanting the full experience of Blackness and the systemic discrimination that comes with it,” Thompson stated.

The most recent Blackfishing headings include Azalea, the Australian hip hop star who’s been implicated of appropriating Black culture because her profession removed a years earlier.

The usually blonde Azalea sports a dark wig in the video for her brand-new single, “I Am the Strip Club.” Critics on social networks kept in mind that in the video her skin appears darker than typical, however she dismissed it.

Iggy Azalea performing in 2017.

Gavin Godfrey and Jonathan Binder/CNN

Iggy Azalea carrying out in 2017.

“I’m the same color as I always am, just in a dimly lit room with red lights,” she stated. CNN has actually connected to associates for Azalea for extra remark.

Kim Kardashian likewise is no complete stranger to such criticism. In 2017, prior to the word Blackfishing was a thing, she carried Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for a cover shoot that some stated made Kardashian appearance darker than typical.

Around the very same time critics likewise implicated her of sporting blackface in a series of advertisements for her makeup line.

“I would obviously never want to offend anyone,” stated Kardashian, who is of Armenian descent, of the image shoot. “I utilized a remarkable professional photographer and a group of individuals. I was truly tan when we shot the images, and it may be that the contrast was off. “

Vocalist Ariana Grande, whose heritage is Italian, dealt with a comparable reaction in 2019 over a Style cover in which some stated her skin appeared darker.

And Bruno Mars has actually protected himself versus allegations that he appropriates Black culture in his music and appearance. In 2018, author and activist Seren Sensei stated Mars “plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres.”

Mars, who was born to a Filipino mom and a half-Puerto Rican, half-Jewish dad, reacted that “You can’t find an interview where I haven’t talked about the entertainers who have come before me. The only reason I’m here is because of James Brown, Prince, Michael.”

When performers or social networks influencers seem combined race or racially uncertain it can develop marketing chances for them due to the fact that they’re thought about trendy and unique, specialists state.

Some individuals who participate in Blackfishing feel entitled to Black culture and utilize it for social currency and financial gain, Thompson stated.

However it works to the hinderance of Black individuals, who might not be seen the very same method with comparable natural functions.

Ariana Grande at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles.


Ariana Grande at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles.

Leslie Bow, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of Wisconsin, describes Blackfishing as “a racial masquerade that operates as a form of racial fetishism.”

Bow said there’s a specific power dynamic in American society that implies aspects of racial culture must be validated by those with status for them to be considered positive or valuable.

“They might think that it operates as an homage because it appears to honor Black style. In this case, they graft off of what academics have called the esthétique du cool that attends Black culture,” Bow said in an email.

“In reality, Blackfishing situates that style as a commodity. It has the effect of reducing a people with a specific history to a series of appropriable traits or objects,” she added. “Blackfishing is one form of racist love, how we appropriate otherness.”

Blackfishing and cultural appropriation are all interconnected – you cannot have one without the other, Thompson said.

Cultural appropriation, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”

For example, numerous White celebrities have been criticized for wearing their hair in box braids or dreadlocks – styles traditionally worn by Black individuals.

Writer and speaker Feminista Jones has described cultural appropriation as when people with power and privilege take customs and traditions that oppressed people have long been marginalized for and repurpose them as a hot new thing.

“People have no respect for Black culture – they think it’s up for grabs and will take and participate in it and exploit it because it has been commodified,” Thompson stated. “We see this on every social app, but more increasingly on TikTok.”

But when people change their appearance with makeup, cosmetic surgery or digital editing to appear Black, it goes a step further than cultural appropriation. It’s Blackfishing.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long included to this report.