Teen Vogue says Gifs of Black People are “Digital Blackface”


Behold, one more way in which you are racist without any apathy or negative opinions about any racial group! Teen Vogue released an op-ed called “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction Gifs.” If you don’t know what a reaction gif is, let me explain it with an example. Let’s say I’m trying to express the deep annoyance and frustration that I felt when I read this article; I could write in detail how it is I felt, or I could use an animated image called a gif, like the ones below:

According to Teen Vogue, however, one of those gifs is just fine, while the other carries a nefarious connotation. The image of Judge Judy is perfectly fine since it is a white person rolling her eyes, the second gif, however, is digital blackface. To put it into context, blackface was the practice where people would paint their face in black and imitate black people in very flamboyant and offensive ways, which is why blackface is rightly considered offensive.

The comparison between a man painting his face black and mocking black people, and a person using a gif of a black human to express a sentiment is not only ridiculous, it’s offensive. Not to get all triggered on you now, but the reason I say it is offensive is that blackface carries the weight of racism before the abolition of slavery, while a gif is a silly animated image that is meant to express a reaction or a feeling. This ridiculousness needs to end.

Emilio Garcia
Deputy Editor, The Unshackled
Host of the Front and Center Podcast