The trend is called “blackfishing” and it’s been widely criticised as a form of cultural appropriation and racism.
What it means: Thanks to Tinder and MTV, most of us know what catfishing is - where someone puts up fake or edited photos online, usually with the idea of convincing people that they’re better looking than they are. Well, now there’s apparently a thing called blackfishing, where white people put up photos of themselves that have been styled and edited to make them look like they’re actually mixed-race or black. Some popular instagrammers have been accused of deliberately misleading people about their real race out of a belief that black culture is currently “cool”.
The accused instagrammers deny that they pretend to be a different race. But a quick flick through their photos shows they do all do things like darken their skin with tanning products and wear hairstyles and outfits, such as braids, which are associated with black culture. They say they just like the style. Critics of blackfishing say it’s cultural appropriation (in this case, where white people think it’s cool to take on elements of other cultures/racists without feeling the need to understand or challenge the societal racism that affects these people).
The row is more complicated because getting Insta-famous doesn’t just mean lots more likes on your selfies but making some serious moolah. The money comes from businesses, who get highly-followed Instagrammers to endorse, wear or hold up their product, reckoning at least some of all those millions of eyeballs that look at the post will be tempted into buying it. Forbes, who tracks the top Instagram influencers, says the most popular get about $150,000 per sponsorship deal. Blackfish critics point out that if black “looks” are now hip and in demand, it seems completely unfair that all this sponsorship money shouldn’t go to black instagrammers: particularly as people of colour tend to be paid less than white people in the general job market./
Read our explainer on how identity affects our economic chances.