I was scrolling through my personal Instagram account this morning and noticed this post.
That led me down a rabbit hole of research, where I found a bunch of articles over the past few years about how only people of color should use emojis with darker skin tones. They also shouldn’t share GIFs or reaction photos that contain a person of color if they are white.
In an article published by Medium, the term digital blackface is used and says “If there’s one thing the Internet thrives on, it’s hyperbole and the overrepresentation of black people in GIFing everyone’s daily crises plays up enduring perceptions and stereotypes about black expression. And when nonblack users flock to these images, they are playacting within those stereotypes in a manner reminiscent of an unsavory American tradition.”
Teen Vogue also did a piece on it, where they featured multiple tweets by Meghan McCain to prove the point that white people flock to memes of black women when expressing some sort of online emotion. They call it damaging to the image of people of color and Scary Mommy even says “in that moment they are choosing to metaphorically don the skin of a black person for the sake of making a point.”
So what about black people using GIFs of white people? They say that’s different because “a black person using a GIF of a white person isn’t the same thing. We live in a world where white is the default, not the “other.” There is no such thing as reverse racism either, so don’t go there.”
The comments are interesting and range from full on support of the stance to others saying people are crazy for trying to make memes, GIFs and emojis racist. Others point out it’s more of a gray area because what are mixed families supposed to do?
Personally, I would have to say it’s outrage over nothing. I’m fairly conscious to choose an emoji that represents my skin color since they added those a few years back, but when it comes to GIFs, it really is just an expression of an emotion you’re feeling and doesn’t have anything to do with the skin color of the person behind what you’re trying to convey.