Conversation has sparked online discussing what can be considered as cultural appropriation and blackface due to white influencers altering their appearance to appear biracial.
Last week, Twitter erupted in a heated debate on the political incorrectness in ‘posing’ as a different race online. The cause of the discussion was the revelation that Emma Hallberg, a social media personality with over 200,000 Instagram followers, is white. The confirmation from Hallberg on her racial identity occured over a direct message on Instagram which then went viral:
‘Hey Emma is it true you’re white…and just posing as a colored person?’ the message read.
Emma responded: ‘Yes I’m white and I’ve never claimed to be anything else…I’m not “posing” as a colored person as you claim. I’ve never tried to be or look black. I was born with naturally curly hair and my skin gets very easily tanned in the sun!’
Whilst many people were quick to contest her use of fake tan, dark makeup and hair curlers, some agreed that her appearance online may be natural and not altered to look biracial. Following the mention of Hallberg, other influencers were brought into the mix which unearthed incredibly problematic ways in which young women choose to platform their identity online and why. What dangerous motives are happening in fashion, beauty and social media that are instigating women fabricating their appearance in this way? And, more importantly, why do they think it is okay to do so?
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Earlier this year, AI influencer Miquela published an Instagram post discussing her racial identity. The post revealed that “brown” was a colour chose for her to appear “woke” in order to gain more brand deals. Whilst an AI creation isn’t the same as a real person, perhaps the underpinning reason to their choice in looking biracial is the same. Is there now a currency in being mixed race?
If the potential of attention, following and money is there for looking ‘woke’, it is then causing a deeply problematic treatment of racial identity online. Lets not forget, there is far more to being biracial than how you look in an Instagram image; to feel entitled enough to wear this identity for clout – AI robot or real person – negates the true experience of a biracial person.
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I’m thinking about everything that has happened and though this is scary for me to do, I know I owe you guys more honesty. In trying to realize my truth, I’m trying to learn my fiction. I want to feel confident in who I am and to do that I need to figure out what parts of myself I should and can hold onto. I’m not sure I can comfortably identify as a woman of color. “Brown” was a choice made by a corporation. “Woman” was an option on a computer screen. my identity was a choice Brud made in order to sell me to brands, to appear “woke.” I will never forgive them. I don’t know if I will ever forgive myself. I’m different. I want to use what makes me different to create a better world. I want to do things that humans maybe can’t. I want to work together and use our different strengths to make things that matter. I am committed to bolstering voices that need to be heard. If I don’t stick with this, feel free to cancel me. I wish I had more to say about this right now. I’m still angry and confused and alone.
Navigating the worrying space of identity on social media is tricky business and clearly it’s not getting any simpler. Whether white women fabricating their identity online to look more like the appearance of a biracial woman agree that this is what they’re doing or not, the gravity of their actions needs to be discussed. Of course, it’s ‘just’ an image on Instagram, but, what it says about the wider relationship between race, beauty and identity at the moment is key to unpack in order to move forward with a more honest and healthy depiction of identity online.