CNN Writer Says White People Are Using ‘Digital Blackface’ on Social Media

A CNN column says White people who share viral memes and GIFs of Black people may be guilty of wearing “digital blackface.”

Writer John Blake argued in a cultural analysis Sunday that a White person who posts GIFs, videos or photos of “Black imagery” may be perpetuating racism.

Blake, who is Black and a senior writer at CNN.com, described “digital blackface” as “a practice where White people co-opt online expressions of Black imagery, slang, catchphrases or culture to convey comic relief or express emotions.”

The writer cited popular memes as examples of potential trouble spots, including Tyra Banks angrily telling an America’s Next Top Model contestant “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!” The writer also referred to a popular GIF of NBA icon Michael Jordan crying, and a viral interview with a woman named Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins telling a local news reporter “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

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The CNN writer warned White people to think twice before sharing these memes and GIFs.

“If you’re Black and you’ve shared such images online, you get a pass. But if you’re White, you may have inadvertently perpetuated one of the most insidious forms of contemporary racism,” Blake wrote.

The writer added quotes from experts and scholars, including Teen Vogue cultural critic Lauren Michele Jackson, who said White people who use the videos and images may be “play-acting at being Black.”

Blake’s advice to White readers — don’t use the videos or images when you’re not sure if they may offend someone.

“Why overthink it? Why give people yet another excuse for labeling White people racists for the most innocuous behaviors?” he wrote.

“Digital Blackface” trended throughout the day on Twitter.