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Revisiting "m.A.I." INCOLOR ARTICLES: "Blackfishing of the Black Woman"

Greetings and Good Morning! Happy Monday! I hope that you all are off to an amazing start!

This week, I'm sharing probably and arguably one of the most controversial articles that I wrote as a contributing writer for INCOLOR Magazine (2018-2019). This article has received the most hits to date on my Pinterest account. As I stated previously, and I will continue to state, it was an incredible honor to be apart of their team of writers producing valuable content for the global majority. I'm incredibly proud of the work that I created for them, and it was during a time when I was trying to bring visibility, credibility, and validation to my work as a new writer and author. I'm so grateful for them, giving me the opportunity to step outside of my box and write something else besides romance novels. Through this experience, I've created a lane for myself that allows me the flexibility to adapt to various writing opportunities and have a voice on critical and exciting subject matter. 

About INCOLOR Magazine

"INCOLOR was an online platform for and by people of color. INCOLOR was originally founded in 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a response to the lack of diversity in the mainstream media. INCOLOR has since expanded into a platform that aims to connect and uplift people of color globally."

About the Article

In December 2018, there was a huge story about a very popular social media influencer that was called out for "Blackfishing". At that time, I was compelled to write about this phenomena. This situation as it emerged began to frustrate me because, I've watched women that are not a Person of Color, but passing as, for instance, a Black Women Influencers get opportunities with large corporations to represent their brands, while actual Black Women and Women of Color get passed over. It is very difficult as a Black Woman to make a "splash" in many areas we decide to compete in. With that said, for me, it had become very disheartening in social media space to see women of other ethnicities be afforded business opportunities because, they're able to make themselves look appear African-American for financial gain, and I decided to write about it. This is a very important topic, and I hope that you enjoy this article.

Blackfishing of the Black Woman

In the era of social media, the platform has been viewed as a phenomenon, in and of itself, giving opportunities for the ascension of the instant “Instagram or YouTube Celebrity”. Turning ordinary individuals into overnight influencers and “Brand Ambassadors” promoting and endorsing major Brands. However, in the wake of this opportunity, the rise of the darker side of “Catfishing” has emerged, as a newly coined term known as, “Blackfishing”, and it has taken the social stratosphere by storm. In late 2018, not long after bursting on the scene, caught in the midst of this phenomenon is none other than the Black woman. When has there been such a time when Black people have not been subject to such blatant acts of cultural appropriation. One would argue NEVER. It appears that the depths of Blackfishing, travels through the very roots of our pain and stabs at the core of our plight as a people, and ultimately perpetuates the disrespect and cultural identity theft of the Black woman.

What is Blackfishing?

Blackfishing is when a person, typically social media influencers or personalities, passes as black by altering their appearance – often their hair and skin complexion. Blackfishing can be considered a more blatant and intentional form of cultural appropriation. Whereas, it has been argued for years in the entertainment industry about White artists culturally appropriating Black music. This new trend is arguably a growing practice amongst white women [in social media] that realize, if they are perceived to be Black or mixed race, there’s a potential opportunity to grow their following on their social media pages, as well as, more business opportunities to receive free products to endorse various brands – particularly make-up and hair products for women of color. We all have heard of the term, “Catfishing”, made popular by the hit 2010 MTV movie, turned reality-based documentary television series. Generally speaking, when an individual “Catfishes” someone, the individual doing the Catfishing is very much aware of the fact that they are deceiving someone else. In the case of Blackfishing, the individuals that have been accused of the act of “Blackfishing”, completely deny and refuse to admit that they knew that they were deceiving their followers, and/or potential followers by appearing black. In all accounts, many of their followers that include people of color were shocked to find that the women that they were following were not Black or mixed-race at all, but in fact white women passing as Black. All of the women accused of Blackfishing in recent months, Emma Hallberg; Jaiden Gumbayden; and Aga Brzostowska, to name a few, all have denied intentionally doing it. They also argue that they’ve never denied their true identities of being white, but their appearance clearly insinuates otherwise. However, it is important to note that of the three, Jaiden Gumbayden is the only one that’s realized through her backlash of being accused of “Blackfishing”, that there’s a “fine line between appreciation and appropriation”.

Effects on Black Women

We can all agree, like the Black man, the Black women have consistently been the victim throughout history of systemic racism, in business and the greater society at large. We’ve had to fight for our place at the table in every aspect of our lives to be taken seriously; so hopefully you can understand why it is infuriating to have to fight on this front as well. The beautiful and wonderful attributes about our appearance as Black women, that made us “exotic” looking and intriguing from our, gorgeous natural hair to having full lips, thick hips, large buttocks and voluptuous bodies, were all once ridiculed and thought of as “shameful” characteristics. Not to mention as being unfashionable and unmarketable at one time. But, in the age of social media celebrities, it is now is a source of capital by women that do not have a shared connection to our struggles. And, underneath all of that make-up and fake persona, by all accounts, looks nothing like us. The unfortunate issue with this trend is that the businesses that utilize these women for endorsing their products are not being held accountable or responsible in the matter. There is a shared responsibility for the brands to question the authenticity of those promoting their products because, many of those products are marketed to Black women. Also, the brands are not coming to the defense of Black women to dispel and denounce this behavior by committing themselves to making sure they properly vet potential “Brand Ambassadors” or “Endorsers”.
Source: Jess the Dragoness

The Black man’s position on this issue is one that is confusing to say the least. When reading the comments of the articles written on this subject, many of the men coming to the defense of the women accused of Blackfishing, are Black men. It is not surprising that this is the case, when in fact, we can point out a larger number of Black men that tend to date women that look like these women. From the entertainment to the sports industries; it is common for Black to date women that look like these women. That’s not just an observation, but a fact. Also, there are a significant number of White women that seem frustrated and confused with Black women’s complaint of Blackfishing within our culture. Many White women argue that Black women are jealous, and they can’t understand why this is an issue. Therein lies why this conversation must continue.

The depths of Blackfishing on the Black woman are far reaching; affecting our women financially, as it relates to business opportunities for us in social media, in addition, to fueling our anger as Black women to have some Black men within our community defend the very white women responsible for Blackfishing us, and not having the support of businesses that is supposed to be culturally aware of our struggles as they create products to serve our communities. We as Black women have to continue to stand firm in our position to make the world take us seriously, especially, in the social media platform. It is our responsibility to hold brands accountable and responsible for selecting actual Black women to endorse and promote products marketed to our communities; and to ensure their authenticity. Finally, although, Black men will date and/or marry whomever they want, as they should, and that is totally ok. It is not ok for them, ignore the blatant cultural identity theft of a community of women that happens to be Black through “Blackfishing” by not coming to our defense or failing to see how this further oppresses us as a people.

Thank you for reading my blog this morning. Hey, do me a favor, if you like or love this post, comment on it. I’d love to hear your feedback. Also, please feel free to share it with your family and friends in the social media universe. I greatly appreciate the support.

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