What is Digital Blackface?


Elijah Robinson, Secretary

Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan sparked a few memes.

They showed Oprah expressing a variety of reactions to Harry and Meghan’s answers during the interview along with a snarky quote. These are examples of digital blackface.

According to Mirriam-Webster Dictionary, digital blackface is, “the use by white people of digital depictions of Black or brown people or skin tones especially for the purpose of self-representation or self-expression.”

It parallels minstrel shows, where white performers would dress up in blackface. These shows degraded Black people, portraying them as lazy, stupid and inarticulate.

This phenomenon has flown over people’s heads because of how invisible it is. It is not as obvious as dressing as a Black person, or supposedly speaking like one. It is a quick, subconscious way of filtering moods and expressions through a Black face.

When white or non-black people do this, they relegate a Black person’s emotions to mere entertainment. It helps propagate the stereotypes that Black people are very animated, with little to no subtlety in their emotions.

Even further, it stipulates any emotion Black people give is excessive, therefore dismissing their individual problems and experiences, and their natural reactions toward them.

This won’t go away overnight, but increasing awareness makes this likely over time.