A social justice organization has told people to stop using memes of Oprah Winfrey from the recent Meghan Markle and Prince Harry interview, calling it “digital blackface.” Oprah’s facial expressions from the interview have resulted in memes that have gone viral.
According to the Slow Factory Foundation, an organization dedicated to environmental and social justice, non-blacks should not use Oprah’s memes from the interview. In an Instagram post, the organization defined “digital blackface” as an “online phenomenon” where non-blacks, particularly whites, use images of black people to express their emotions.
The term “digital blackface” has existed for years, but was popularized by Lauren Michele Jackson in a 2017 article on Teen Vogue.
“While seemingly harmless, the problem with digital blackface is that it often reinforces negative stereotypes about Black folks such as they’re aggressive, loud, sassy and simply here for your consumption and entertainment,” the Slow Factory Foundation post read.
“Performing Blackness, be it IRL or online, is not an acceptable form of expressing reaction or dissatisfaction, especially not in exchange for likes and retweets,” it added.
The post generated mixed reactions, with some praising the organization for raising awareness and some criticizing the message as “divisive.”
“Blackface is a violent and harmful representation of black people rooted in violence. Using a gif of Oprah is NOT blackface,” one user wrote.
“Reaction pictures/gifs and memes are universal and are certainly not a part of “digital black face,” another wrote. “I feel like that’s extremely divisive. People use reaction pictures of those of another race all the time and I don’t see how that’s harmful.”