This week, Black Twitter has been having a heated conversation about a phenomenon that’s been hiding in plain sight on the internet for a while now: blackface thots.
What are blackface thots? They are regular thots — to clarify, “thot” is not being used in a derogatory sense here; I love thots — but with an extra side of racism. And they are everywhere.
Twitter users @WannasWorld and @yeahboutella (who, to clarify, did not coin and disapprove of the term “blackface thot”) began the conversation earlier this week with threads calling out white women online darkening their skin to look black or racially ambiguous.
On Wednesday, a Twitter user going by the name “niggerfished” (a concept wherein white people pose as black people online) published a well-curated thread featuring all the white influencers and internet celebs who have built up followings by posting pics of themselves rocking cornrows and suspiciously bronzed skin.
Some of the culprits include Swedish influencer Emma Hallberg, YouTuber Mika Francis and Instagram users Hannah Winifred Tittensor, liisaleetma, itsleana___ and jaiahfern. HuffPost reached out for comment to all the women listed. In a response, Tittensor, the only woman to respond thus far, denied the blackface allegations.
“I don’t paint myself, I tan,” Tittensor explained via Instagram message, “I use tanning beds to tan my skin I do not intend to try and switch races or pretend that I am white but I tan.”
Like Tittensor, the majority of the young women embodying this aesthetic aren’t pulling a Rachel Dolezal. They do not necessarily claim to be black women ― they just like looking like them, a distinction that makes this phenomenon all the more thorny. How do you even begin to approach someone in blackface who believes what they’re doing is not blackface?
Though the level of skin-darkening varies from user to user, all of them seem to rely heavily on tanning, bronzers and makeup foundations several shades darker then their own complexions to achieve a black or racially ambiguous look.
They couple their chocolate-adjacent skin with other typically black female markers like plumped lips, cornrows, braids, lacefront closures with babyhairs and doorknocker earrings. Individually, these additions would be one thing. Altogether, they create a bizarre and transparent attempt to synthesize the black aesthetic, perfected by black Insta-baddies and stolen by the patron saint of blackface thots, Kylie Jenner.
What makes these girls so fascinating is the bizarre extremes they go to not to look white. (And no, black women straightening their hair or going blonde is not comparable for a myriad of reasons that are too obvious to even go into.) The amount of makeup and bronzer they use, the consistency with which they cling to ambiguity, makes Kylie Jenner and the rest of the Kardashian clan look subtle by comparison.
The thing that isn’t often said about blackface is just how hilarious it is. Not in the context it was born, mind you, in the days of minstrelsy, but in a modern context. So much time is spent explaining why, yes, it’s still offensive that we forget how ridiculous it is, too.
The aesthetic of the blackface thot is so garish, so laden with dysmorphia and denial, that it goes past the point of offensiveness. The question isn’t “Why do y’all keep doing this shit?” It’s “Is this what you actually want to look like? Is this what black women look like to you?”
It’s genuinely funny that these are the lengths that a certain segment of non-black women will go to not to look like themselves. It’s funny that there are black girls out there, right now, who look like that (but better), and do so just by waking up in the morning. It’s funny that despite this fact, influencers like Hallberg and @liisaleetma have thousands upon thousands of followers who like their pictures, fawn over them, and give them the gratification and validation they seek by affecting an aesthetic that does not belong to them.
This, perhaps, is the funniest part of all. Hundreds of years later, blackface hasn’t changed ― the act of blackface, after all, has never been solely about the person who does it but about the people who consume it and, thus, perpetuate it. It’s this transaction that has turned blackness into currency. And it’s this transaction that guarantees that blackface thots aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The world just goes on rewarding people for making themselves look ridiculous. That’s funny as hell.