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Influencers Are Using Blackface to 'Support' the Black Lives Matter Movement

Despite the backlash, at least one influencer still refuses to take down her post.
June 15, 2020, 9:58am
A protest sign calling for the protection of Black lives. Photo: James Eades on Unsplash. 

From marching in protests and making conscious brand choices, to amplifying Black voices, there are plenty of ways to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

But a group of social media influencers and celebrities have found themselves in hot water when they decided to show their support for BLM by donning blackface.

On June 10, a Syrian artist and socio-political activist who goes by the pseudonym Saint Hoax called out several influencers from Asia and Eastern Europe, in an Instagram post. Saint Hoax first explained the history of blackface, then went on to expose influencers who showed support for BLM in photos where their skin was darkened.

“How can you ‘spread awareness’ about a subject you know so little about? If you genuinely care about a cause, the least you can do is educate yourself about it,” the post reads.

“It’s infuriating that we still need to educate people about the racist and painful history of blackface. We shouldn’t be having this conversation in 2020.”

Most of the influencers called out in the post have issued apologies for their actions, taken down their posts, or set their accounts to private.

One of them is Algerian singer-actor Souhila Ben Lachhab, who has 1.6 million followers on Instagram. According to Saint Hoax’s exposé, Lachhab shared a photo with half of her face painted black, seemingly in an attempt to voice her support for Black people.Amid public backlash, Lachhab’s Instagram account has since been set to private.

Another influencer Saint Hoax called out was Rashmi Zurail Mann, who posted a video of herself in blackface, captioned: “The make up tutorial we need today #blm.” According to Dazed, she has since deleted the post, issued an apology, and set her Instagram account to private. “I apologise for creating a work that was deemed insensitive. I could not express the colourism I intended to express,” her apology read.

At least one of these influencers, though, sees nothing wrong with her post and has refused to take it down. On June 1, Lebanese singer and artist Tania Saleh superimposed her face onto a photo of a Black woman in an Instagram post.

“I wish I was black,” Saleh’s caption reads.

Despite facing public criticism for her post, she refused to take it down, choosing instead to defend her choice in the comments section. “I have posted this with love and I will not remove it despite all your offensive comments,” she said.


Image: @taniasaleh

Saleh also wrote a Facebook post justifying the photo.

“I have not painted my face or dressed in a weird way or made an offensive statement towards the black community in the image I shared earlier,” her Facebook post reads. “My crime is that I put my true feelings in words and an image.”

Netizens were outraged and confused by influencers who have chosen to show their support for the Black community through blackface, which has long been considered to be racist.

While blackface is widely denounced as offensive, it continues to appear in international media.

In 2018, China’s Spring Festival Gala sparked controversy online when one of its comedy skits featured a Chinese actor sporting blackface and wildly oversized buttocks as an African character. The Spring Festival Gala is the most watched TV programme in the world, drawing in over one billion viewers in 2018.

Last week, British broadcasters and streaming services including Channel 4 and Netflix removed several British comedies which contained instances of blackface and racial slurs from their programme lists. Among these TV shows are Little Britain, a sketch comedy that ran from 2003 to 2005, which has long been criticised for its use of blackface as a comedic trope.

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.