Thank goodness the warriors at Teen Vogue have decided to tackle the most pressing issue of our time: GIF usage.
According to feminist writer Lauren Michele Jackson, when white people use GIF reactions of black people they are engaging in "digital blackface."
Yes, that it correct: white people posting GIFs of black people on social media is 21st century blackface.
"If you’ve never heard of the term before, 'digital blackface' is used to describe various types of minstrel performance that become available in cyberspace," writes Jackson.
"Digital blackface uses the relative anonymity of online identity to embody blackness," she elaborates. "Quite often it comes in the form of an excessive use of reaction GIFs with images of black people."
Jackson continues: "Digital blackface does not describe intent, but an act — the act of inhabiting a black persona. Employing digital technology to co-opt a perceived cache or black cool, too, involves playacting blackness in a minstrel-like tradition. ... No matter how brief the performance or playful the intent, summoning black images to play types means pirouetting on over 150 years of American blackface tradition."
The feminist argues that white people posting GIFs of, say, NeNe for The Real Housewives of Atlanta or Michael Jordan, is actually unjustly dumping "a huge amount of emotional labor" onto black people. Seriously.
"Ultimately, black people and black images are thus relied upon to perform a huge amount of emotional labor online on behalf of nonblack users. We are your sass, your nonchalance, your fury, your delight, your annoyance, your happy dance, your diva, your shade, your 'yaas' moments. The weight of reaction GIFing, period, rests on our shoulders. Intertwine this proliferation of our images with the other ones we’re as likely to see — death, looped over and over — and the Internet becomes an exhausting experience," she writes.
White people should stick to Taylor Swift GIFs, says Jackson: "If you find yourself always reaching for a black face to release your inner sass monster, maybe consider going the extra country mile and pick this nice Taylor Swift GIF instead."
As noted by The Federalist's Bre Payton, "Accusing someone of making fun of African-Americans by donning blackface is a serious thing indeed, which is why throwing that term around casually is problematic. When people share a GIF of a black person, they are not painting themselves with blackface makeup to perpetuate a stereotype or bar people entry from theater or even public life. Often they are not even stereotyping, given that posting GIFs is by nature an expression of shared humanity."