As protesters in all 50 states and around the world continue to take to the street in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other black Americans, Instagram influencers have awkwardly taken to their app to show signs of solidarity. Like many brands hoping that posting a black square with the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” on #BlackoutTuesday will be enough to trick the public into believing they are good and moral, influencers have mostly aimed for the bare minimum. Some are so clueless, they’ve chosen to illustrate messages of solidarity with racist posts.
I am, of course, talking about blackface.
As the Daily Mail reports, influencers from all over the world, specifically “the UAE, Lebanon, Philippines, Germany, Poland, Algeria, and Turkey,” have posted images of themselves in blackface in what is somehow supposed to be a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lebanese singer Tania Saleh posted a photoshopped image of herself in blackface with an afro, captioning it, “I wish I was black, because my idols in music and dance are black, all the athletes I respect are black, even Bilal the first Muezzin in Islam was black.” As of publication, the photo is still up. After backlash against the post, Saleh she shared a statement on Twitter arguing that her image wasn’t offensive since all of her idols are black. “My crime is that I put my true feelings in words and an image,” she wrote, adding that “All the human race comes from Africa after all! We are all originally black.”
Other influencers went private after being called out in the comments for their ridiculously ignorant posts. A few apologized for racial insensitivity, including Ken Francisco de Dios from the Philippines, who posted on Facebook after either deleting or deactivating his Twitter and Instagram accounts. “It wasn’t of my intention to imitate anyone of any culture or race,” he wrote. “As an artist, I used my artistry to be part of the campaign.”
Because the influencers who participated are from countries outside of the United States, some commenters pointed out, they may lack the historical implications of minstrelsy—the widespread use of extremely racist stereotypes of black people in theatrical performances, stemming from the 19th century, that served to codify whiteness. Still, I’m impressed by the level of entitlement required to speak about a movement you know nothing about. All of this could’ve been avoided if they did the bare minimum that so many protestors are asking the public: learn and listen.