After reading the article “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in GIFs,” I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. Instead of forming an opinion right off the bat, I decided to look at the metadata attached to the article.
As with most articles covering any sort of racial topic, there were some very strong reactions from both ends of the spectrum. Out of the 166 comments, the ones that appear at the top all seem more negative than positive. They also seemed to be primarily posted by white people. I don’t think this was a mere coincidence.
When I read the article, I didn’t understand it right away, and I disagreed with some of the things in it. I, like many of the Facebook commenters, felt like Teen Vogue was trying to make “something out of absolutely nothing.”
Other commenters wondered what it would be like if the situation was flipped; if black people were underrepresented in GIFs.
The first four of the top comments are similar to the one above. The first five are from white people. It isn’t until scrolling pretty far down that you see comments like these:
Looking at the metadata attached to the article made me reconsider the problems I initially found with it. There are still parts I don’t agree with, such as “Images of black people, more than anyone else, are primed to go viral and circulate widely online,” because I think that “missing white girl syndrome” is a problem that contradicts this.
But the article opened my eyes to many social standards that I had failed to recognize before, such as seeing black people as a “walking hyperbole.” The article wasn’t “making something out of nothing,” but instead it was making something out of something that was previously completely ignored.