Blackfishing: Why these influencers are receiving backlash for 'pretending' to be black

Posted by Ria, 06 Dec

Photo credit: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

Ever heard of that term "blackfishing"? Well, this is a term for white people who pretend to be black or mixed race on their Social Media pages. A lot of white people have been accused of faking their race. Civil rights activist, Rachael Dolezal is not the only white person who has received backlash for looking black and claiming she is black.

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Aga, an Instagram influencer who goes by the name Alicja has been shamed on social media for "pretending" to be black. She says "People told me to kill myself". She has even received death threats as a result. Much as natural Polish skin isn't so pale, she does not deny making it appear darker. However, she says her curvaceous body and her pouty lips are real.

"I've had no surgery, so I can't take off these lips. I can't remove my 'fake bum implants'", says Alicja. "With things like tanning, I don't think I've done anything in a malicious way." She just does it because she like it. But people still brand her a blackfisher.

Alicja is now telling her critics that they are wrong to assume that she tans in order to look black.

She isn't the only Instagram influencer being backlashed for curling their hair, braiding, tanning their skin, having fuller lips, hips, and booty. And the one taking the crown with over 260,000 Instagram followers is Sweden's, Emma Hallberg.

One Niccole Nero Gaines shared photos of Hallberg captioned:

"White girls if you want to pass as Black, how about using your platforms to address the injustices and discrimination actual Black people face. Don't just appropriate, Appreciate the people you are imitating #emmahallberg".

Emma came to her defense saying, "I do not see myself as anything else than white. I get a deep tan naturally from the sun."

Some black women are getting offended by this because they feel these white women are changing their features to look like black women. And before and after pictures of Emma and Alicja have really made rounds.

Double standards or what?

One thing that we gotta admit is that when it comes to issues of race and color, there will always be double standards. For instance, some black women straighten their hair and lighten their skin. What are we supposed to call that?

A twitter follower, thetruthspeaker, pointed this out writing, "so when #emmahallberg is tanned then its called #Blackfishing.. but when some wear a brazillian weave and bleach their skin then its considered fine? the hypocrisy is lost on many."

Well, I have to admit, that point is valid. I think one's appearance should be their own business. If I find darker skin more appealing, what's wrong with me tanning my skin or applying foundation that's a shade darker? If I find curly hair better on it, why not wear the hair that way? And the thing about calling fuller lips or big booty black features is nothing but stereotypical.

Culture appropriation or appreciation?

People have gone ballistic when white women braid their hair. Kim Kardashian has been on the receiving end of this. She has had to defend her braided hair on several occasions. But how is that appropriation? Have we ever stopped to think that maybe they just really appreciate and love the look? Why make a big deal out of it?

A New York nurse, Dara Thurmond, is frustrated by white women who pose as black telling Radio 1 Newsbeat that these women have no clue about "the struggle that black women go through just to be accepted as who they are". She feels black influencers are "pushed to the side" on social media by white women who are blackfishing saying they are being unfair to black women. Basically, she feels these women are becoming a huge competition for black influencers and those looking to get product endorsements.

Jaiden Gumbayan, an accused too, understands why she receives the backlash. However, she says there is a "fine line between appreciation and appropriation". Some black women will feel flattered that white women are trying so hard to look like them. Others feel offended that their culture is being copied and is being robbed by people who don't get the history behind it.

Well here is Dara's rationale behind blackfishing:

"We're coming into a time where you see a lot of black women really expressing themselves and stepping into their blackness, and owning it, and not being ashamed of it anymore.

"So it makes sense why it's happening - because I guess some people who are white-presenting feel like they're not the standard anymore. So now they're trying to do things to stay relevant and keep their popularity."

8 responses to "Blackfishing: Why these influencers are receiving backlash for 'pretending' to be black"

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  1.   Audi122 says:
    Posted: 10 Dec

    This is bs! You get a white woman pretending to be black to sell products to black women and some idiot thinks that’s ok? Why can’t they employ a black woman? How many black women do you see employed to sell products to white women?

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  2.   Starr83 says:
    Posted: 06 Dec

    Straight hair is not synonymous with white women.

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  3.   Paganinifan says:
    Posted: 06 Dec

    The funniest thing about all this is that the people making “death threats” over something so petty are the same people who protest in the streets about EQUALITY and STOP THE HATE. These are your “friendly and nonviolent” liberals. The hypocrisy IS REAL!

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    • Meche_ says:
      Posted: 4 days ago

      How could you possibly know if they're the same people? Making up details to make a point is utterly pointless.

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  4.   dodgethis2k says:
    Posted: 06 Dec

    I have no idea who she is (and could care less), however the same black women who have a problem with her tanning likely straighten their hair which is also cultural appropriation...by their own standards.

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    • NardiJMGirl says:
      Posted: 09 Dec

      Cultural/ethnic appropriation (what these Instagram influencers are doing in blackface) is a completely different thing from cultural/ethnic assimilation (what you're describing, where (black) women may straighten their hair or do other physical modifications to better blend in with the society they're in.). Even if a black woman straightens her hair or wears wigs, it's obvious even to the blind that that more than likely isn't her natural texture. I'm also sure women with pemed/relaxed/straightened hair or who are wearing wigs/weaves don't go around claiming it as their own genetics or misleading by omission (innocently presenting themselves on a platform and deliberately allowing people to come to incorrect conclusions. The panel even said she was featured on a black magazine in her altered state and she was fine with that, such was the depth of her attempt to pose as someone/something else. So the issue youre presenting doesn't even belong on the same platform as this. It's comparing apples and oranges, it's disingenuous and an attempt to deflect from the insidious nature of the matter at hand.

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      • Starr83 says:
        Posted: 6 days ago

        It’s sad that so many of these white men are tone deaf and glib on race relations when they are so anxious to get into an interracial relationship with an African American woman. I could never date or marry a man who didn’t understand the dynamics of race in America. And I pity any African American woman that would. She’s in for a lifetime of grief & headaches. That’s why it’s important to distinguish “preference” from “fetishism”.

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