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Today 8channers are kicking off a social media "operation" to pose as black people and seed antisemitic propaganda.

Seems like a good time to talk about digital blackface, huh?
The term "digital blackface" gained wide prominence in 2017 with this Teen Vogue article about a form of digital blackface that many (still) think is benign-- white appropriation of black language and physicality through reaction gifs.

teenvogue.com/story/digital-…
The author of that Teen Vogue article, @proseb4bros, has been writing about digital blackface since at least 2014.

In this article for The Awl, she discusses the potent and toxic brew misogynoir, respectability politics, and digital blackface create.

theawl.com/2014/08/memes-…
As Jackson writes, digital blackface can range from reaction gif appropriation to white folks straight up posing as black people to advance a white agenda or apologism (as with "Laqueeta" in this example)
In these more extreme cases, the white "ventriloquist" often inadvertently expose the falsehood of these digital blackface profiles by engaging in over-the-top expressions of a "blackness" that has its roots in minstrelsy rather than authentic black identity or culture.
If you don't know what minstrelsy is, read up.

Minstrelsy was a popular form of entertainment that emerged-- not at all by coincidence-- at a time when the abolitionist cause was gaining strength in the U.S.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minstrel_…
In minstrel shows, white performers used makeup to create exaggerated versions of what they saw to be "primitive" or "savage" physical features of black people, encouraging their continued dehumanization in the eyes of the public.
Minstrels' actual performances served that same goal of dehumanization, creating exaggerated portrayals of the traits that pro-slavery whites ascribed to blacks in defense of slavery: laziness, stupidity, buffoonishness, superstitiousness.
Minstrel shows weren't just entertainment; they were political propaganda designed to reinforce white prejudices, dehumanize black people, and protect the institution of slavery.

Minstrelsy started as a project to demean blacks and protect slavery.
Minstrelsy-- in the form of white performance of black stereotype-- continues to this day, as Jackson wrote about in her articles. It has always served and continues to serve the fundamental goal of dehumanization and subjugation of black folks.
Minstrel shows weren't just entertainment; they were political propaganda designed to reinforce white prejudices, dehumanize black people, and protect the institution of slavery.

Minstrelsy started as a project to demean blacks and protect slavery.
Minstrelsy-- in the form of white performance of black stereotype-- continues to this day, as Jackson wrote about in her articles. It has always served and continues to serve the fundamental goal of dehumanization and subjugation of black folks.
That's a big part of why it's so racist for whites to dress up as black folks.

It's active participation in the still-living project of minstrelsy, the theft of black representation by whites in service of creating a dehumanized version of blackness that matches racist thinking.
A lot of the racist black stereotypes we still see referenced today come from or were popularized and cemented in minstrelsy.

The "mammy," for example, was a stereotype of the "good" black woman, happily ignorant and a subservient performer of domestic labor in white households.
Then there was the "pickaninny."

Scholar Robin Bernstein describes the minstrel "pickaninny" character as defined by is 3 qualities: "the figure is always juvenile, always of color, always resistant if not immune to pain."

Stereotypes have consequences.

rewire.news/article/2018/0…
White supremacists are well-aware of the purpose of the project of minstrelsy, and go to great lengths to defend it as benign and harmless, and to feign cluelessness about its origins.

Blackface lets racists propagate the stereotypes as needed in order to enact racist policy.
Remember all the Fox News outrage over the removal of Kate Smith's statue and rendition of "God Bless America" from the Flyers' stadium here in Philly?

Breitbart et all ran with the story, calling it an attack on patriotic American tradition.
It definitely was an attack on an American tradition: the tradition of minstrelsy.

Smith trafficked heavily in that tradition, singing songs like "That's Why Darkies Were Born" (because "someone had to pick the cotton") and "Pickaninny Heaven" and selling "Mammy" dolls.
Kate Smith's minstrelsy had a lot to do with stereotypes about "good" blacks who knew their place (dehumanized pets, subservient to whites).

Maintaining minstrelsy's dehumanization of blacks is very important for white supremacists.
As long as a significant portion of the population sees black folks as animalistic or subhuman, that perception can be used to justify systematized violence against them to the broader public.
For that reason, minstrelsy is super-important to white supremacists.

That's how you end up with young fascist radical white supremacists like American Identity Movement (formerly Identity Evropa) taking a stand on a boomer-targeted, cringey Fox News-y story like Kate Smith.
Increasingly, however, overt continuation of minstrelsy tradition is losing traction.

Iggy Azaela's career isn't going so well, and since Megyn Kelly's spectacular fall from grace, Fox News talking points on the subject have gone from "it's fine" to "yeah but Dems did it too"
As it becomes less and less socially acceptable for whites to perform overt minstrelsy, those looking to continue the strategy of dehumanizing black folks through white performance of a stereotyped identity are trying a tactic that the digital makes possible: crypto-blackface.
Crypto-blackface is the act of posing as black while deliberately concealing one's true white identity, nearly always to undermine or overpower authentic black voices.

"Laqueesha" from Jackson's article is an example of crypto-blackface. Rachel Dolezal is another.
Dolezal was such a big story in part because it is so rare for a white person to be able perform crypto-blackface and pass undetected.

It's much easier to perform crypto-blackface online.

Another benefit of digital crypto-blackface is that it allows mass replication of the performance through use of bots, which allow malicious actors to create a two-mirrors-facing sort of near-infinite performance of false black identity and performance.
This kind of false consensus crypto-blackface was on full display last night, when a host of suspicious accounts tweeted out the same attack-- verbatim-- on Kamala Harris' blackness in the middle of the debate.

White Trumper twitter figureheads immediately amplified this suspicious attack, completing what certainly appears to be the first two steps in the crypto-blackface cycle:

1) crypto-blackface bots send a racist message

2) white beneficiaries of the message amplify
The third step, of course, would be that anyone critiquing the racist content of the message is called racist by the crypto-blackface account, which claim priority as "black" voices, and their white beneficiary "allies."
Last night showed that this kind of networked crypto-blackface can be staggeringly effective.

@MalcolmNance warns that this is a strategy that has been in the works for some time.

And while 8chan's "operation" is rinky-dink by comparison, it gives insight into the how deeply minstrelsy-steeped right wing crypto-blackface is.
It's worth noting that the original 8chan poster's very first idea- sowing strife in black community over degrees of blackness- is exactly what the crypto-blackface bot network & its bemeficiaries tried to do last night in response to Kamala Harris' successful debate performance.
As a white person, it's not my place to suggest or speculate how black folks should think about or address this white supremacist trend.

As for white folks...

The first step is to do work we already ought to be doing.
1) we need to get educated on minstrelsy. We need to learn about the stereotypes it taught, how those stereotypes are perpetuated today, and how we've unconsciously allowed them to condition our expectations and ideas about blackness.
2) we need to be listening to black voices in a consistent and everyday way. We should be doing that any more anyway (and acting on what we hear), AND that listening makes clearer the difference between authentic black voices and one-dimensional, stereotyped crypto-blackface.
3) we need to follow black folks' lead on how to address crypto-blackface. Fellow white people, DO NOT GO DEPUTIZE YOURSELF THE AUTHENTIC BLACK VOICE POLICE AFTER READING THIS.

We don't get to speak for black folks, and we don't get to police who does.
Bottom line: crypto-blackface is an especially pernicious form of minstrelsy because it removes even the acknowledgment that the minstrelsy is being performed.

It's a real practice, it's getting used by pro-Trump operatives and 8channers alike.

Be aware.

(/thread)
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