On election night, while the nation waited with bated breath over poll results, Twitter user, Dee (@yeahboutella) shared a series of Instagram screenshots on Twitter regarding their dismay and shock over a white woman outed for being white. Now you may be asking yourself how is someone is outed regarding race in 2018 and especially as white? Evidently, a Swedish white woman Emma Hallberg, who goes by the username @eemmahallberg on Instagram, was accused of sleeping with braids to give her hair a fuller and more textured look, spray tanning her skin until it was five or six shades darker, and using foundation to deepen the appearance of her skin.These white women are physically altering themselves to look like mixed-raced women of African descent for social and monetary capital. Click To Tweet
Replies to Dee’s thread consisted of equally shocked Twitter users, and one tweet even featured a stark contrast between @eemmahallberg’s appearance in 2016 and 2018. Another tweet revealed a shot of her Youtube video showing the disparity between her darker foundation and her naturally fairer skin. Writer Wanna (@WannasWorld) who has masterfully framed Black women in the hood and their direct influence on fashion, asked her followers to add more women like Hallberg, who essentially cosplay racially ambiguous mixed-race women of African descent to showcase the Instagram phenomenon. Moreover, she brilliantly highlighted it as a “ni**erfishing epidemic.” Replies flooded Wanna’s tweet and even prompted accounts dedicated to exhibiting what can only be described as something along the lines of racist body dysmorphia.
So what is the issue here besides the complete absurdity of it all? Well, for one, there are multiple issues with this. Let’s look at the most obvious: these white women are physically altering themselves to look like mixed-raced women of African descent for social and monetary capital.
Due to the vigorous erasure of unambiguous Black women in mass media, the market for mixed-raced and racially ambiguous women has skyrocketed. To illustrate this point Black women’s representation drastically shifted from the Afrocentric look in the 1990s to what we have seen and continue to see in contemporary eras of the 2000s and 2010s, which is a more “universally appealing” look generally found in women who are not monoracially Black. The abundance of Black women who cannot be cosplayed by white women such: members of En Vogue, Blaque, Brownstone, SWV; Brandy, Lauryn Hill, Tatyana Ali, and Nia Long dwindled in preference to: Zendaya, Kehlani, Alexandra Shipp, Amandla Stenberg, Jhene Aiko, Cassie, Yara Shahidi, and Cardi B.
The high demand for women with features that are Black enough to provide the exoticism and white enough to appeal and provide accessibility to white women created the space for literal imposters — or ni**afishes. ‘The look,’ popularly known as ‘Instagram Baddie,’ relies on Black women as its foundation, but because Blackness fails white beauty standards it has to be adequately removed from Blackness to appeal to white women. The Instagram Baddie aesthetic for non-Black women results in more likes on social media which operates as social currency thus inadvertently; however, more times than not, intentionally garners recognition from beauty corporations invested in exploiting the insecurities of women for profit.The high demand for women with features that are Black enough to provide the exoticism and white enough to appeal and provide accessibility to white women created the space for literal imposters — or ni**afishes. Click To Tweet
Brands reach out to non-Black Instagram baddies, at remarkably higher rates than the Black women whose looks create the foundation for the aesthetic. These corporations provide the “universally appealing” women with lucrative opportunities such as brand ambassadorships; all expense paid trips, advertising deals, and free products. The business becomes cyclical: white and non-Black women alter their appearance to become ‘Instagram Baddies,’ they gain social validation through likes which subsequently increases financial profits on both the woman and brands side, and it reinforces a beauty standard at the ironic exclusion of Black women.
Disappointingly, because the Black folks — en mass — continue to uphold and adhere to the racist one-drop rule, racially ambiguous mixed-race women are seen as Black although their sociopolitical and economic experiences are measurably different in comparison to Black women. The differences between the two groups of women is an iteration of the colonial three caste system in Southern Louisiana, a part of U.S. history that isn’t as widely interrogated as it should be although it set a precedent for colorism the United States.
Now, in the modern-age, racial ambiguity has afforded mixed-raced, and consequently white women, the privilege of trapezing a broader demographic. For whites and non-Black people of color Instagram baddies are ‘exotic,’ and to Blacks, these women are still seen as Black because there may be a little bit of Black in them, even when it turns out there isn’t any at all. This more expansive demographic translates to higher opportunities for marketability and monetary profit because diverse groups of people will consume the image of these women more favorably.
The preeminent non-Black women to ni**erfish in the contemporary era are the Kardashian-Jenners. They may not have been duped the public into believing that they are Black; however, they tap into Black women’s aesthetic for their marketability as well as steady proximity to Blackness by way of their male partners and high-profile Black women friends. It is not by chance that Kim and her family have dominated ‘urban’ blogs like Bossip and The Shade Room and have become household names among Black America in comparison to other non-Black and white celebrities like a Sofía Vergara or Jennifer Lawrence who are also positioned as standards of beauty.
Rapper and ex-boyfriend of the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner klan, Kylie, recently spoke about the deliberate efforts the Kardashians make in co-opting Blackness. Regarding Kylie’s drastic shift from ordinary white girl to an Instagram baddie, he said, “you gotta look at the before and after. She always had a platform, and she was always destined to be what she was going to be regardless, but, when I stepped in, there was a lot of codes being taught.” By codes it can be inferred he means Black codes, presumably the way Black women pose in pictures, dress, and wear their hair and makeup. He followed up by saying “…it was like, you could do this, you should start this, you should start doing your hair like this, you should add that because you need black people to f— with you…” “…if you ain’t got Black people behind you, you ain’t got nothing.”
It was one thing for the Kardashian-Jenner family to satisfy the Black Male Gaze but by donning the entire custom of racial ambiguity and signaling cues of Blackness is how they fascinated the community as a whole. Their shape-shifting allowed them to not only sell their products to white women desperate to look more interesting, seen in the timing of Kylie’s lip kits and her lip filler debacle but also to Black women who also aspire to attain a look that receives widespread approval, particularly from Black men.
A hard truth in this trend is the complicity of Black people. As Tyga truthfully articulated, “…if you ain’t got Black people behind you, you ain’t got nothing.” There has to be a substantial investment in racially ambiguous mixed-race women and an affirmation of their Blackness even when it is not being asked for by them in order for them to pull the con off.
For Black men, their internalize anti-Black racism is projected through implicit and explicit violence against Black women. They shame and vilify Black features and characteristics on Black women with colorism and featurism yet praise and seek out white and non-Black women who have transformed themselves into caricatures of Black women. Moreover, because they are still men, the act of women contorting themselves to appease them is an added ego-boost. Partnering and creating progeny with these women ultimately fulfill their white male penis envy and erases the parts (or entirety) of Blackness they wish did not exist in themselves.
For Black women, their participation in the elevation of these women is a more woeful tale. Because they desire to be desired by Black men they follow whom they see appealing to Black men. Because patriarchal domination transcends sexual orientation, the desire is not solely based in cisheteronormativity but rather the general oppression of women. Their added media erasure — which has not yet happened to Black men — creates a void in healthy self-esteem building. Thus, allowing for any representation no matter how fictitious to serve their need to be seen and affirmed. Capitalism, racism, and patriarchy become the driving forces that create the environment for Black women become reliable and loyal consumers for racially ambiguous mixed-raced women and now white women who advance their erasure and sell their image back to them.
So, yes the ni**erfishing trend is ridiculous, and the name — coming from a Black woman — may make you let out a hearty chuckle, but the implications are dire. Not only have mixed-race women replaced Black women in spaces designated for them thanks to the one-drop rule but because of their easily mimicable features, white women and non-Black can now take up space and opportunities that were already hard for Black women to access and now make it all but impossible for Black women to do so. More importantly, outside of the monetary and social capital, the diet blackface only further complicates an already complex sense of self among Black women. Unlike women like Hallberg, Black women’s race-based body dysmorphia has not and is not met with light-hearted Twitter jokes or compassion but instead vitriolic shaming and silencing. Since social capital, in this case, is controlled by users of social media platforms, shifting your following and likes to unambiguous Black women is an excellent starting point to remedy the damage caused by ‘ni**afishes.’
With Integrity, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid Settle NFL Collusion Case
Without folding to the organization’s superiors, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid have emerged victorious, proving you can maintain your integrity and still be successful.
Just two days after Steve Harvey “coached” Mo’Nique on the benefits of placating industry elites and putting integrity aside for money, Colin Kaepernick’s attorney made an unexpected announcement. The athlete-turned-activist has settled his suit against the NFL over collusion to keep him out of the league.
Answering Injustice with Justice
Following National Anthem protests to bring awareness to injustices that oppress Black people and other people of color, the NFL punished Kaepernick. The league left him unsigned through the off-season and through 2017 training camps. This led to speculation that his departure from the league would be permanent and was caused by being blackballed.
In 2017, Eric Reid filed a grievance letter with the NFL. The letter alleged that under the influence of Donald Trump, the league conspired to prevent further employment opportunities because Reid was the second person to participate in National Anthem protests. Kaepernick and Reid shared the same legal representation during their similar cases. However, Reid remained employed and suffered several mandatory drug tests with 7 occurring during the 2018 season alone.
Nearly two-and-a-half years removed from the initial incident, Kaepernick and Reid’s agreement with the NFL has been reached, but with certain terms. In a joint statement issued by their legal representation, both Kaepernick and Reid are subject to a confidentiality agreement which demands no further comment on the issue.
As of now, no one knows the amount either of the former teammates has been paid to settle their dispute. However, sports experts are speculating Kaepernick was paid within the range of $60 to $80 million for lost wages. Regarding what he will do with his earnings, Kaepernick has been committed to activism across the country. His Million Dollar Pledge has concluded, but the athlete remains invested in the Know Your Rights Camp, which he founded in 2016. The free campaign was established to raise awareness on higher education, self empowerment, and proper law enforcement interaction in various scenarios.
Now that Kaepernick and Reid have settled their dispute, do you think Kaepernick should return to football? Or should he remain focused on activism and philanthropy?
Dapper Dan Meets With Gucci, Develops Inclusion Action Plan
Following the celebrity supported Gucci boycott, Dapper Dan met with the brand to discuss diversity, inclusion, and accountability. Their meeting concluded, the cultural icon of hip-hop fashion design plans to hold all fashion houses accountable for diversity and inclusivity within their respective brands.
Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day, along with a team of experts, approached Gucci with demands that the fashion house acts in the best interest of underrepresented groups. Comprised of ninety percent people of color, the team of corporate experts sat down with Gucci executives to develop a long-term action plan to make amends for a racially-insensitive balaclava design.
The $890 sweater featured a balaclava that, when extended, covered the wearer and mimicked blackface. Causing an immediate social media uproar, Gucci removed the sweater and acknowledged their mistake. Dapper Dan, who frequently used the brands imagery while establishing himself as a hip-hop couturier, was taken aback.
In 2017, recognition from Jay-Z and Black Twitter earned Dap a partnership with the luxury clothier. Dapper Dan partnered with Gucci’s CEO and creative director to develop a line of men’s wear. Ultimately, this resulted in a new atelier which opened in Harlem in 2018, making Dapper Dan of Harlem the first luxury fashion house in the Manhattan neighborhood. Still, this history of partnership and accomplishment did not muddy Dan’s feelings about Gucci’s despicable error.
Pledging to hold the brand accountable for their error, Dapper Dan and the corporate elite met with Gucci and discussed how the brand planned to atone for their cultural ignorance. Upon news of his meeting, celebrities who were participating in the boycott took to social media to share their discontentment. This prompted Dapper Dan to release a statement in defense of his meeting. He checked the culture on their disposal of Black fashion brands along with acknowledging the lack of opportunity for aspiring designers.
We have to LEARN TO EARN. What happened to all the Black fashion brands that failed since the ’80s? Was it because they didn’t get Black support, or was it because they didn’t know the business? Do you expect our young Black designers to spend 30+ years mastering fashion by teaching themselves as I did? How do you expect them to compete with the big brands if they don’t REALLY know the business? They need jobs and internships within these big brands so that they can learn and then branch out on their own.
We Must Hold Everyone Accountable
Addressing the opposition, Dapper Dan remarked that those who wanted to continue to boycott were free to do as they pleased. Before ending his statement, he added, “if anyone should be boycotted, it’s the brands that won’t give our young people an opportunity to learn. In an additional Instagram post featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Jay-Z, Dapper Dan called out artists who purchased clothes on credit and then never patronized his business again once they achieved fame. Both the athlete and rapper-turned-business-mogul were integral in Dan’s reestablishment process after other luxury brands robbed him of his designs.
Insisting we must not only hold the brands accountable, but we must have a plan of action to amend the mistake and move forward, Dapper Dan invited Gucci to join the 21st century with new diversity and inclusivity policies. Their meeting, facilitated by a round-table of nearly ninety percent people of color, birthed an action plan for immediate implementation. Following the conclusion of their meeting, Gucci released a statement apologizing and outlining their long-term action plan to address culture and diversity awareness in the company.
Mediation, Resolution, Progress
Several key points of their intended plan include the creation of several jobs for global and regional directors for diversity and inclusion, a global learning program for diversity and inclusivity awareness, and a global exchange program. The company is also committing to a multi-cultural design scholarship. The 12-month fast track program, which partners with fashion schools, will amplify opportunities to underrepresented groups which will lead to full-time employment. Schools of focus for the scholarship are in New York (Harlem), Nairobi, New Delhi, Beijing, Hangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo, Beirut, London, and Dubai.
These immediate actions were developed with Dapper Dan, expert industry leaders, and Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s current President and CEO. While many hold the ideology that you should not applaud a fish for swimming, it is important to remember that Gucci’s efforts are far above and beyond other companies, i.e. H&M.
Following H&M’s disastrous “Coolest Monkey In The Jungle” debacle, the company hired just two diversity leaders for their Global and North American markets and issued a public apology. The company has been unable to recover from their mistake which caused The Weeknd and G-Eazy to reject collaboration opportunities. One-year removed from their failure, H&M has recently announced 160 store closings worldwide.
Given Gucci’s response to their racist design and proposals for improvement, will you continue to boycott?
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