CNN Claims YOU Are Guilty Of “Digital Blackface”

Photo edit of CNN's John Blake. Credit: Alexander J. Williams III/Pop Acta.
Photo edit of CNN's John Blake. Credit: Alexander J. Williams III/Pop Acta.

CNN’s John Blake has stirred up controversy with his recent article accusing white people of participating in “digital Blackface” through the use of memes and GIFs featuring black people and expressions to convey emotions or humor. Blake argues that this practice perpetuates the historical legacy of minstrel shows and is a contemporary form of racism. However – there are more pressing issues facing the United States.

CNN’s John Blake argues that digital Blackface is a practice where White people co-opt online expressions of Black imagery, slang, catchphrases or culture to convey comic relief or express emotions,” where White people adopt online expressions of Black culture, slang, catchphrases, or imagery to convey humor or emotions. These forms of expressions are commonly used in Twitter feeds, TikTok videos, and Instagram reels, and are among the most popular internet memes, typically in reference to viral internet videos.

CNN looks to the “cultural critic” Lauren Michele Jackson, as she describes digital Blackface as involving White people play-acting at being Black, reflecting a tendency among some to use “Black people as walking hyperbole,” which many believe is an absurd argument, and attempting to make issues out of thin air. Those who argue that digital Blackface is a legitimate issue claim that using Black people in GIFs and images culturally appropriates the language and expressions of Black people for entertainment, while dismissing the severity of everyday instances of racism Black people encounter, such as police brutality, job discrimination, and educational inequity – an argument similar in tone to arguments made in 2020 during the BLM riots, claiming that “White silence is White violence.”

Meghann Foster, Katherine Plumb and Anna Gretton hold the banner outside their flat in Crouch End
Meghann Foster, Katherine Plumb, and Anna Gretton hold the banner outside their flat in Crouch End. Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian.

As LondonCNN said on June 29, 2020,

“White silence is violence.” It’s a simple but powerful message shouted at Black Lives Matter protests around the world, and it marks a major shift in expectations: it’s no longer OK to just not be racist, you have to be vocally anti-racist. If you’re not, you’re part of the problem.”

Critics on social media have expressed outrage and confusion at the concept of “digital Blackface.” Many have looked at transgenders, as males who wish to be perceived as female could be said to acting in a similar way to “Blackface,” as they are comparatively doing “womanface” – using prosthetics and other devices to appear more feminine, all while wearing women’s clothes, using makeup, and attempting to act stereotypically feminine. However, they are applauded, promoted, and awarded for their version of dressing up and attempting to mimic other groups of people, at times even given preference over actual women.


Of course, it’s absurd to focus on the issue of “digital Blackface” when there are more pressing concerns facing the United States. The economy is struggling, with many working full-time but still struggling to make ends meet. Hard drug use is resulting in unprecedented levels of fatal overdoses. The border is chaotic, with thousands of illegal immigrants pouring in. The United States has questions to face about whether or not to enter a potential World War 3 situation.

As a result of these issues, mental illness is rising in the United States, as roughly 20% of Americans experience mental health issues including chronic anxiety and depression – which was only made worse by COVID-19 lockdowns and the isolation of most Americans. When the United States is facing issues as large as this, having large-scale political discussions about “digital Blackface” is a waste of time – and it would be a tragedy to allow future elections to slip away because of discussions surrounding astroturfed aspects of a culture war.

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