Monday, August 7, 2017

Reaction Gifs: The New Digital Blackface?

Teen Vogue has been offering up a continuous supply of well-written, well researched essays, from a diverse range of writers. At least once a week, I'll read something on Teen Vogue that will give me pause and have me re-evaluate something I normally take for granted. This one surprised me: reaction gifs. As Lauren Michelle Jackson posits in her Teen Vogue op-ed, that could very well be the case:

 There’s no prescriptive or proscriptive step-by-step rulebook to follow, nobody’s coming to take GIFs away. But no digital behavior exists in a deracialized vacuum. We all need to be cognizant of what we share, how we share, and to what extent that sharing dramatizes preexisting racial formulas inherited from “real life.” The Internet isn’t a fantasy — it’s real life. After all, our culture frequently associates black people with excessive behaviors, regardless of the behavior at hand. Black women will often be accused of yelling when we haven’t so much as raised our voice. Officer Darren Wilson perceived a teenage Michael Brown as a hulking “demon”and a young black girl who remained still was flipped and dragged across a classroom by deputy Ben Fields. It’s an implication that points toward a strange way of thinking: When we do nothing, we’re doing something, and when we do anything, our behavior is considered “extreme.” This includes displays of emotion stereotyped as excessive: so happy, so sassy, so ghetto, so loud. In television and film, our dial is on 10 all the time — rarely are black characters afforded subtle traits or feelings. Scholar Sianne Ngai uses the word “animatedness” to describe our cultural propensity see black people as walking hyperbole.

The entire op ed is very well-written. Agree or disagree, you're likely to come away with a lot of food for thought, so be sure to read the whole article.

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