Colorism is an existing issue all over the globe. Darker skin color is often seen as unappealing. Hence, some people would pay to get lighter because societal standards are a b*tch like that.
Recently, netizens started calling out white Instagram models for “blackfishing,” or the act of darkening one’s skin and enhancing features to look like an African-American person. Emma Hallberg, for example, posts photos where she’s flaunting brown skin. When she was asked about her race, she admitted that she’s white who just tans easily during the summer. But if you see how she does her makeup, it’ll make you raise your eyebrows.
Even stars like Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian are being accused of exploiting and appropriating black culture. Their fans have strongly denied this on their behalf—noting that getting a spray tan isn’t a big deal. However, another argument that’s come out is the fact they’re using AAVE. Ariana, in particular, was called out for having a “blaccent.”
According to Teen Vogue, blackfishing devalues dark-skinned women because white women are utilizing their beauty and getting recognition for it too. i-D also cited in a video, “Cultural appropriation has extended to body parts, and many of today’s most celebrated beauties are in fact white women with augmented bodies and faces who’ve been cut and carve to produce a facsimile of blackness.”
This is a case of profiting from their “blackness” without being black themselves as well. For the longest time, beauty standards were based on whiteness (light skin and straight hair). But, as i-D noted, there’s been a white women have historically been jealous of their dark-skinned sisters because they allegedly had an advantage to getting men’s attention. This gave rise to the Tignon Laws in Louisiana in 1786 which prohibited black women from sporting their natural hair in public.
You probably follow someone on Instagram who's guilty of Blackfishing, but what are the cultural history and implications of this racist practice? pic.twitter.com/YgKvP8TAW1
It’s an insult to black women if you think about it. We hear stories of people telling them they’re ugly and shouting racial slurs at them based on how they look. But when light-skinned people adapt their features, they are praised.
On the other hand, “whitefishing” is also a thing that should alarm you. This is a familiar concept here in the Philippines wherein naturally moreno/morena people whiten their skin because, again, it’s deemed more attractive. Urban Dictionary describes this as “often done because of the social stigma created by slavery and colonialism that people with dark skin are not as good as people with light skin.” Unlike its counterpart though, people who take part of this are victims of impossible beauty standards.
Both blackfishing and whitefishing are forms of erasure because they’re the result of promoting Euro-centric features while stepping on minorities. Colorism is real and it needs to stop because the world does not—and never did—revolve around just one superior race. So do not selfishly steal the features and cultures of others for your aesthetic.
Art by Marian Hukom
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