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For my final project, I will be discussing and “investigating” the new phenomenon of ‘Blackfishing’. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, ‘Blackfishing’ is when a person on Instagram or Twitter (specifically a woman) who is not of color, changes her physical appearance (e.g. hair, skin color, etc.), in order to be perceived as a specific person of color (e.g. African-American, Mixed, Afro-Latina, etc.) Example images:

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This seems to be a branch of the ‘Catfishing’ tree. (Catfishing is when someone poses as someone else online by faking their name, appearance, online identity, and so on).

Speaking about the importance of identity and self on the Internet of 2019, I have a couple of questions for you when it comes to this topic.

  1. There are two sides to ‘Blackfishing’. One is that some people don’t see the big deal. It is merely just someone appreciating the culture. On the other end spectrum, people are uncomfortable with this because of its almost identical connection to the history of ‘Blackface”, which is when someone who is not African-American, applies very dark/brown makeup and performs racial stereotypes of slaves. This would happen in the 1900s. My question is, Is there a difference between appreciation and appropriation when it comes to another person’s culture? 
  2. My second question is, online identity has become almost, if not for sure, as important to us as our real identity. When someone fakes who they are and deceives other people, how does that affect online identity?
  3. Does online identity affect how people see those online personas in real life?
  4. Who is harmed during this? (And by “this” I mean ‘Blackfishing’) or is this just makeup and fun, just like people believed ‘Blackface’ performances and caricatures were?

I can’t wait to hear your responses! Any other questions or ideas that come to mind to help me dive deeper into my project, please let me know! Here is my Twitter: @ColorfulWriter02

Thank you!

Shared by: lillians02
Image Credit: Unknown

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  1. Dalia Mahfouz El Adl

    I see why someone could think this is offensive, but I think they are just trying to follow the fashion trends since having a tanned skin is a beauty sign. It is the same as having full lips and straight hair in my opinion, but still I respect your opinion on this matter.

  2. collector

    I believe that blackfishing is more of an act that appreciates certain beauty aspects, especially if the act is limited to darkening the skin tone for an instagram post. People tend to alter their images according to the beauty trends set by societies. Generally, if a girl believes that dark-skinned women are beautiful, and therefore alters her images to look more like them, then I would say that the girl appreciates the beauty of those who belong to a different culture.
    I wouldn’t say it’s deceptive to alter one’s images, but that’s to a limit, of course. For instance, celebrities use photoshop to enhance their pictures, and they don’t receive as much criticism on social media and people don’t find them deceptive.

    I do believe that a person’s online identity gives people an impression or an idea about him/herself, which, hence, may cause people to act in a certain manner when they encounter them in real life. -Alia Elkadry

  3. collector

    I agree with what Alia’s (the comment above) saying. People have appreciated and beautified different skin tones over the course of time. Back in the 70’s-90’s all the rage was about lighter skin tones. Everyone was trying to look lighter. Tanning oils were not even a thing. That does not by any means mean that they are offending or intending to harm people with lighter skin. It just means that they think they are beautiful and want to be like them. Why hasn’t anyone criticized them for wanting to be “white”?

    The most important thing here is that the person online does not encourage the standardizing of beauty. No one color is beautiful and no one shape is beautiful. Beauty is inclusive, it comes in all colors, shapes and sizes. And we should never set a standard that would make people feel less good about themselves. – Zeina Helaly

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