The Art of #Blackfishing: Modernising Cultural Appropriation


“Everyone wants to be black until it’s time to be black.”

This phrase has never been truer. There is a desire from non-black (N-B) people to emulate black features and black cultural practices in today’s social media age. This offensive behaviour is never with acknowledgement, it seems. The ignorance over this racial insensitivity is not an excuse.

‘The Asian Afro’:

A video of Asian men creating Bantu knots on their straight hair surfaced. It was in a poor attempt to transform it into “afro hair.”  What is worrying the most, was not the action of them creating this look on their hair. This nonchalant self-belief that N-B people seem to be oblivious to these actions is concerning. If this isn’t ignorance then what is?

This is a problem because N-B bodies are displaying fake and selected black features. These are the same bodies that will be the first to run when encountering issues black people face. The obsession with black features seems both confusing and worrying. It begs the question: ‘Will Blackfishing become more than a trend?’

What Is Blackfishing?:

Newly coined terms are aplenty and “Blackfishing” is one of them. It is the act of N-B people adopting physical/cultural features of black people. The worst part is that they receive an eager audience. In some ways, it isn’t surprising that this is occurring at all. For the last decade or so, we have seen the rise of white and N-B women profit these black features in a way that real black women haven’t. ‘Blackfishing’ happened in the case of Emma Hallberg and other N-B Instagram models. They adopted a darker skin tone, large lips, curvy bodies and typically black hairstyles. The unfortunate truth is that “Blackfishing” is another new technique in the history of cultural appropriation against black people. Without a doubt, racial fetishism is the motivation for this.

History Behind ‘Blackfishing’:

Racial fetishism has to be noted when trying to understand ‘Blackfishing’. The Transatlantic Slave Trade fetishized black features such as full lips and curvy physiques. During this era, black women and men’s bodies were hugely fetishized. They were hypersexualised yet regarded as undesirable at the same time. Their ‘unusual’ large physical features were something that fascinated white people. N-B people created freakshows where they exhibited black people. White audiences saw Sara Baartman exhibited because of her curvy bum. This imperialistic attitude has sadly travelled through history to find a comfortable place in this present day.

Moving Forward?:

This appropriation won’t be disappearing soon. Social media has subconsciously encouraged Blackfishing. Black women are fighting to love themselves and recognise their self-worth, yet they still lose acknowledgement for their own beauty. In the future, black women’s features will be given recognition in the right way providing more awareness is spread and we are respectful. Hopefully, in the future, we will all see why this is so wrong.

Written by Tamara Mensah

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