QCQ for “Blackfishing on Instagram”
by Wesley E. Stevens
“Neoliberalism and its resultant subjectivities have made appropriation profitable … Instagram’s hypercompetitive capitalist dynamics push individuals to appropriate culture, instructing subjects to mine cultural forms to sell something ‘cool’ to their followers” (13).
I found these two quotes tied together to be interesting and important because they highlight the dynamic issue of blackfishing by defining its driving enablers – neoliberalism and Instagram. I used to be on Instagram. I had a decent following and I was happy with the number of likes I got until I started to take a step back and realize what it was doing to my mental health. I realized that I was playing into a social status game that I could never win. Whoever is the most interesting, rich, or fake wins.
What’s so striking about this quote is that it says that Instagram has “hypercompetitive capitalist dynamics.” While I had never thought of it this way, I think this is why I hate it. Everything is a competition. On my level of Instagram, the competition is just who has the prettiest face or the most interesting life. For others, it is who has the most money and who can make the most money. I knew Instagram was a horrible digital environment, but I didn’t realize how deep the toxicity ran.
The fact that users appropriate culture for monetary gain is quite literally disgusting. Individuals do in fact “mine cultural forms to sell something ‘cool’ to their followers.” What’s cool, apparently, is “divorcing Black aesthetics and culture from their history” (13). And, as the article mentions, these “cool” products are likely too expensive for the majority of the individuals within the culture they are appropriating will be able to afford due to the systemic racism that runs ramped in this country. Thus, they are only recycling rich White individuals’ money, further perpetuating the cultural appropriation and racism on the platform and in the schemas of any individual viewing the posts of those who are blackfishing.
Is ‘cancel culture’ the only thing holding individuals who blackfish accountable for their actions? When the platform of Instagram itself won’t do anything about this, who can and who will? How do we fight against the toxic and addictive environment of social media, and how else might individuals who blatantly appropriate culture and perpetuate racism on these platforms be held accountable?