Arab celebrities’ act of solidarity with US protests backfires after blackface posts

Arab celebrities don blackface, claiming they were doing so in solidarity with recent protests in the United States. (Twitter/Instagram)

Arab celebrities sparked outrage on social media for posting photos of themselves donning blackface, claiming they were doing so in solidarity with protests in the United States over the killing of George Floyd.

Blackface, when a non-black person darkens their skin with paint or makeup in an imitation of a black person, has a long history in the United States of being used to reinforce white people’s portrayal of African Americans.

It can be traced back to the late 19th century when white performers would use shoe polish or burnt cork to darken their skin and then portray African Americans in a degrading and humiliating way.

Social media users have taken to Twitter and Instagram in recent days to call out the female celebrities for posting “ignorant” and “racist” images and failing to understand the racist roots behind blackface.

“What’s with many Arab influencers using Blackface as a way to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Despite being called out, they keep thinking ‘it’s okay??’ I mean how stupid can one be!!!” one Twitter user said.

Hundreds of people in the United States and in countries around the world have taken to the streets in recent days to protest police brutality against African Americans.

Also read: George Floyd’s death: Minnesota files civil rights charge against police

The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed when a white police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes despite Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.

The controversial posts

Lebanese singer Tania Saleh on Monday posted a photoshopped image of herself with an afro hairstyle and darkened skin captioned, “I wish I was black, today more than ever... Sending my love and full support to the people who demand equality and justice for all races anywhere in the world.”

The picture was met with outrage from followers and one user replied, “This is NOT how to express solidarity! This is quite a pathetic attempt on your part (both image and text).”

Another user urged the singer to delete the post and criticized her for appropriating black culture.

“I hope u read this and remove this post. This is not a good way to express solidarity or appreciation, its actually quite insensitive. They’re getting oppressed and killed for just existing. They’re not an aesthetic. Appreciate the culture, but don’t appropriate it,” the user said.

The actress later issued a statement saying, “I have not painted my face or dressed in a weird way or made an offensive statement towards the black community in the image I shared earlier…I forgive you all for the hate I received today because you made me block the unnecessary evil on this page.”

Moroccan actress Mariam Hussein also posted a photoshopped picture of herself with darkened skin, but later said she would be deleting the post after it garnered a lot of criticism.

When one Instagram user messaged the 31-year-old explaining that blackface has a history of being racist, the actress said that when she uploaded the post, she did not consider the history.

“I do not look at the past, I do not look at the history. I look at the present, and now we have protests in America, not here in the Arab world. We Arabs do not have racism, we don’t live with racism. Black, white, we are all the same,” Hussein said in an Instagram story.

Algerian singer Souhila Ben Lachhab on Wednesday also posted a picture of herself on her official Instagram with half her face and her hand painted with dark foundation.

The photo’s caption read, “We’re one. Just because we are black on the outside, doesn’t mean that we are black on the inside. Racist people are the true black heart ones. They are black on the inside, though they do not know it.”

Social media users quickly responded to the singer’s post, criticizing her for the photo and for further reinforcing stereotypes of African Americans by comparing the color black to something unfavorable.

“Blackface is sourced from racism, you can express your solidarity without painting [yourself], be careful,” one Instagram user replied.

In the Middle East, blackface has caused a surge of controversy on social media in recent years, but the practice remains widespread. It can still be seen in some TV shows and movies in the Arab world.

The latest posts are not the first time an Arab celebrity has been criticized for donning blackface. In December 2018, prominent Lebanese singer Myriam Fares appeared in a music video in blackface, dressed in an African-inspired costume.

The 37-year-old received intense backlash for weeks on social media after the release of her music video. The video was not taken down.

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Last Update: Thursday, 04 June 2020 KSA 19:17 - GMT 16:17
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