By Andrea Lee
As the days go by, the question posed by actress Amandla Stenberg becomes more and more relevant. “What if America loved black people as much as black culture?”
We are now living in a time where social media influencers are attempting to pass themselves off as black. New beauty standards have emerged of wanting features that traditionally belong to people of color. These same features were discriminated against.
There’s even a recent trend of blackface references from designer brands.
To answer the question above, if people loved black people as much as they loved black culture, America would be a more inclusive place.
In recent years, it seems like the new beauty standards for women have shifted. Now, the new hot trends are to have a bigger pout or to be “slim thick” or even have a darker complexion.
The worst part is the articles and blogs discussing this new craze claim it was all started by the Kardashians and not the people who have been ridiculed for having them for years. Even the hairstyles that have gotten black people fired in the past have become the new norm, as long as they are not on black people, of course.
For those who do not know, blackface started in the mid-19th century. White performers would paint their skin black, exaggerating their features to look darker and portray black people in a derogatory manner to entertain fellow white audiences.
Blackface has seen a resurgence in use lately, with people painting their faces for Halloween on a consistent basis. It seems like companies have to apologize for offensive products often.
In the summer of 2016, Moncler was selling a whole line with images that resembled offensive characters before pulling the line due to backlash.
In Dec. 2018, Prada released a line of keychains, cell phone cases, clothing, jewelry and other leather products featuring a character that “unintentionally” resembled blackface imagery.
Gucci has also joined this new wave after releasing a turtle neck that goes up to the nose with a giant red-lip cutout. This predictably caused a giant uproar, with celebs like Spike Lee calling for a boycott of the brand. Even singer Katy Perry recently pulled her shoes resembling blackface off of shelves.
After the number of brands releasing racist products like this, it almost seems like the companies know what they are doing, and are trying to use these controversies to get people to talk about their brand. It does not end with blackface on clothing either, as makeup brands are releasing complexion products that don’t cover a broad enough range.
It is a known fact that when products like movies and makeup are inclusive, they benefit. Sales increase, records are broken and the product is likely to trend online. So why are brands using this as a tactic? It is demeaning for people of color, and shows that their feelings do not matter unless it’s exploitable for businesses.