CNN Attempts To Revive Controversial 'Digital Blackface' Discourse, But Social Media Is Largely Not Having It

March 29th, 2023 - 12:17 PM EDT by Adam Downer

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digital blackface immortal technique response tweet and the Ain't Nobody Got Time for That meme.

CNN has Slowpoke'd its way to covering the hottest controversy of 2017, publishing an article titled "What’s ‘digital blackface?’ And why is it wrong when White people use it?" on Sunday.

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As a quick refresher, the term "digital blackface" refers to a non-Black person posting online to give off the impression that they are Black. While hotly debated, this can include using AAVE slang, as well as GIFs and memes featuring Black people.

The term was originally coined in 2006 but began becoming a hot-button cultural issue when several news publications posted articles discussing the trend between 2016 and 2018, coinciding with the rise of popular reaction GIFs featuring Black celebrities like Tyra Banks and Ru Paul.

CNN's recent article retreads the talking points from those half-decade-old op-eds, focusing largely on the rise of Ain't Nobody Got Time For That as a meme. Writer John Blake cites academics who have decried the usage of digital blackface as a version of 21st-century minstrelry, saying such GIFs are cartoonish caricatures of Black people.

Once the piece hit social media, many online were baffled that the digital blackface discourse had reared its head once again, and while some conceded that digital blackface was a problem, it wasn't the usage of memeworthy GIFs that were problematic. Rather, many defined "digital blackface" as a non-white person creating a Black online persona, perhaps with the intention of infiltrating Black online spaces in an effort to disparage Black people.

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At the moment, it seems there's no agreement on what constitutes "digital blackface," as some consider using memes of Black people to display aggressive emotions fits the bill, while others are fine with the memes but believe the concept centers around non-Black people crafting an online persona around being Black.

What's more clear is that the internet appears largely uninterested in rehashing an argument that already happened over half a decade ago.

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