The Cases of Racism, Cultural Appropriation, and Stereotypes in Social Media
By: Danisha Emmanuella | X IPS
Ditulis untuk Mata Pelajaran Lintas Minat Antropologi | 7 Oktober 2021
If you have been around social media, you might be familiar with the term ‘cancelled’ . If you are not familiar with it, the term is a definition where a person will not be supported publicly because of one’s negative action. This essay was inspired by a pattern I see in social media, the pattern had always been almost identical it wasn’t surprising. In the social media world, an influencer is a start where everything in social media flows, or also known as a trend. To be supported by the public and stay ‘relevant’ one has to have a certain image. The image you show to the public will always stay on the internet. As an influencer, keeping up with the image or the part you decide to play in social media has its certain ups and downs.
One of the things that has peaked my interest about this topic was how it happens a lot of times on the internet, especially in Indonesia. How are the three topics (Racism, Cultural Appropriation and Stereotypes) associated with being “Cancelled” if you may ask? The pattern of influencers getting ‘cancelled’ will always start when a certain media of them in the past doing controversial things gets leaked on the internet. (some influencers immediately get cancelled after they did a certain offensive action, but the most common cycle is how they were most likely ‘exposed’) the cycle of the influencer is always the same.
➔ One has done a certain action resulting one to get viral in social media and have enough viewers to have a platform in social media and be known as an ‘influencer’
➔ Until an old media (can take the shape of a video, picture, or a leaked conversation etc.) of the certain influencer resurfaces of them participating in an offensive action.
➔ The certain video of one’s doing an offensive action spreaded over the internet, resulting in the public and viewers ‘boycotting’ and stop supporting the influencer (Or also known as ‘being cancelled’)
What really puzzled me was how almost every single influencer in the social media world who has been uncovered to be a horrible person who was nothing like their image they have pursued to be has been so called ‘cancelled’ for doing something similar with the other influencers who has been so called ‘cancelled’. You might be confused, what is that certain action that some cancelled influencers have done?
To first start off, what does racism mean? “Racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.” (Oxford Languages)
Everyone must be familiar with the internet and how people warned how the screen of a phone can cause big danger, physically and mentally. From the term cyberbully, we all know how social media and how menacing it can be. It is no wonder the term ‘the world is on the tip of your finger’ or ‘dunia ada di dalam genggam tanganmu’ can illustrate how accurate it is to compare them with almost everything that can happen behind a screen. The acts of hate speech and cyberbullying has increased from how there have been more and more people using social media. A conversation between two people (or more) with different perspectives and opinions can lead to more vulgar things that can lead to the worst that can lead to bullying. The act of racism are acts to feel pride and discriminate against a race or racial superiority that can offend a certain race by their looks, act and culture.
Acts of racism in social media are very accessible and easy to locate. The act of racism in social media can be seen / and can take the shape of slang, stereotypes (which i will talk about later) , minor jokes and offensive comments and words. These things might be seen as something that isn’t harmful but are actually dangerous and very offensive.
➔ Offensive Words/Slurs
Every race has their fair share of words that have been labeled as racist and offensive. The history of the words were termed about the stereotypes of a race. As someone who isn’t of a certain race, would not or should not say that word in caused it to sound offensive and racist. Saying a certain word that has cultural history about stereotyping a race is very uncalled for and offensive. Because, a racial slur is made like what we see today because of a dark past. The past of the racial slur holds a certain weight in the word, since then a person who isn’t from the community/race who says the certain racial slur makes it seem ignorant and disrespectful.
You might think, if we are not allowed to say the word then why do people say it? The answer is simple, fame. People who have become relevant or maybe have a certain thirst for their 15 seconds of fame have experienced the feeling of pride to see people noticing them and getting the attention they have always wanted. From there, their hunger towards the attention people gave them makes them want more and more, leading them to do such horrible actions just for the thrill of it and to feed the hunger they felt.
One of the most common cases of racial slurs in the internet are the racial slurs towards the black community. The n-word has a very dark history in the word. The black community had been fighting from horrible treatment and racism for years. For uneducated people, it may look like a normal word when it has history and a bad past. The slur has been used by the white people to mock and pick fun at the stereotypes of black people. The word was used to describe black people about their dark complexion , appearance and their low status in the community. Not only that the word also meant how black people are ‘lazy and dumb’ who serves for white people which also shown how white people have more supremacy and rights compared to the people of color. (which in all ways are incredibly wrong) Since then the word has been used in alot of pop culture, just like movie lines and rap music that might gotten a lot of non-black people to know about them and use the word carelessly. The asian community also has their horrible racial slurs, one of the most common slurs you might have heard about is about mocking the Chinese language. The slur has been over for years mocking the language of the asian people. The c-slur has been seen as very disrespectful.
The association of offensive words with influencers is how it is very common for them to have a past of them saying the offensive word even though they are not part of the race in a leaked video. On how scary the internet is, people can say the racial slur anytime and anywhere they want and how there might be someone out there who has held a big platform in social media but has a different image then they pursue to their viewers. From mouthing or lip syncing a racial slur (for someone who isn’t the certain race) can also be seen as offensive, since I myself isn’t from the black community I have no right to forgive nor accept an apology from a certain influencer who does such action. Here are some examples of the racism cases in social media :
According to Wikipedia, cultural appropriation is ‘the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.’
Cultural appropriation is a way to borrow or use another culture without understanding it and using it for personal gain/use. Cultural appropriation is just like using an item from a different culture but only using it as a ‘costume’ and in a disrespectful way. We can see how disrespectful and offensive it is by understanding them by looking it into your own perspective and in your shoes. You see a person wearing a religious symbol from your culture without understanding them, of course you would be upset and disappointed. One of the other examples which is very common happens in Halloween, at a Halloween party you wore a vampire costume. But you see a person wearing a Native American ‘costume’. How would you react to someone wearing your cultural outfit that has a very long history and used it as a costume and just for the looks of it, a culture is an element from a nation that has long history and deep meaning, not a costume.
What is the first thing that pops up in your mind when you think about social media? Yes, trends. Trends are the things that flow in social media and keep them running. Of course, not everything can go smoothly. There have been a handful of toxic trends that have let people following them fall in a hole they should not fall into.
➔ Blackface and Blackfishing
Black fishing is a term for a non-black person to ‘cosplay’ as a person of color. The action can take the shape of tanning their skin excessively to mimic a person of color, wearing hairstyles that have a tradition for a black person to normally use ( one of the examples of them are box braids , durags and dreadlocks.) Influencers or celebrities or anyone in the world who does blackfishing or blackface (which is a way of using makeup for nonblack people to look like a black person.) who is seen as ‘racially ambiguous or mixed race’ use black culture to appear more stylish and exotic for marketing purposes or just for the looks of it alone and to feel entitled in the black community. A certain person who does blackfishing and enjoys looking like a black person and acting like it when you’re not from the community is a “form of racial fetishism” ( from Leslie Bow, University of Wisconsin
This is also a topic that is almost identical to the toxic trends, just like asian fishing (stereotyping east Asian women to be cute, kawaii and profiting them in social media) Stereotypes have been something I also wanted to talk about. Even though stereotypes are still disrespectful, it isn’t as brutal as it is in social media. The comments of very uneducated people can cause a significant amount of people feeling very offended and heartbroken. Stereotypes are elements people believe to describe a category of people. Let me ask you something, what is the first thing you think about bikers and gangsters? Leather jackets, arms full of tattoos and a scary cold persona perhaps? Stereotypes have affected a lot of people, sometimes people feel small or maybe offended by them.
➔ Stereotyping of East Asian Women
This topic is similar to Blackfishing but i feel like it has a lot of stereotyping elements in this (not that Blackfishing didn’t have any stereotyping at all, but i have more things to explain in Asianfishing) Same goes for Asianfishing, but of course it has its fair share of differences. Besides Black fishing, Asian fishing is more focused on their way of using makeup and their ‘cute appearance and aesthetic’ and stereotyping East Asian women to act all adorable. From popular tv shows in Japan or Korean idols, non asian people who does asian fishing see them as a costume to use (especially how Japanese girls are seen as cute, they also want to get their hands on the look too) From elongating their eyes and using Asian culture like a costume, this racial fetishism is actually pretty common to see in social media, especially influencers. This goes for East Asian Women.
It’s not also just taping their eyes to have the ‘asian look’ but it goes for changing their hair color, using a certain makeup look to look like the typical ‘Kawaii Asian Girl Stereotype’ when you are not an asian person. This trend was especially hated, because of how Asians were being mocked for having slender eyes while white people who had them were being called beautiful and never mocked. (This is absolutely okay to do when your eyes are normally slanted but it is wrong to make them slanted and change your race just by makeup) Liking and using certain cute things and cosplaying as anime characters are very acceptable, in fact there is nothing wrong with it. But when it comes to purposely trying to look like an Asian person it is not acceptable.
➔ Stereotypes of Races
There are a lot of stereotypes that are very offensive to people. One of the ones I have seen a lot that was so influential it caused a person’s death and a riot in America. You might be familiar with #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement in America. The beloved George Floyd passed away due to the lack of air when a police officer knelt on his neck for more than 5 minutes. Of course, everyone did not take this well. This caused a riot and a movement about police brutality and how police acted more violently towards Black people. Of course, you are asking why? There are a lot of reasons but the stereotype of how Black people were stereotyped to be seen as ‘aggressive and violent’ they were also said to be ‘associated more with gangs and drugs’ when of course, they are not. There are also a lot of stereotypes for other races too. Latinos and the Mexican were stereotyped as lazy and dirty.
In the social media world, we see a lot of controversial things happen. From influencers using the #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement just because it’s trending, some were found out be racist and called slurs about Muslim women and men and others were just blantly rude in real life. These things not only happen in social media but in real life. This essay was to show how the internet can be dangerous and how influencers might be someone you should look up to. It was always inspired by a lot of things influencers have done that involve racial material and cultural appropriation. I hope one day, we can learn about other people’s culture while appreciating them.
Greenheart Club.2015.Cultural Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation: Why it Matters.https://greenheart.org/blog/greenheart-international/cultural-appreciation-vs-cultural-appropriation-why-it-matters/ Diakses pada 10/7/2021
Valerie Reynoso.2018.Native Halloween Costumes Are Offensive, Support Native Designers Instead. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/native-halloween-costumes-are-offensive-support-native-designers-instead Diakses pada 10/7.2021
Anisah Steele.2021.Why non-black people should not say the n-word. https://eagleeye.news/staff_name/anisah-steele/ Accessed on 10/4/2021
Australian Human Rights Commission.Examples of Racist Material on the Internet. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/publications/examples-racist-material-internet#3 Accessed on 10/4/2021
Jenny Ryu.2021.Is the fox-eye makeup trend racially insensitive? Here's what Asian cosmetic experts had to say. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2020/08/19/fox-eye-makeup-asian-beauty-experts-weigh-racial-dispute/3355027001/ Accessed on 10/5/2021
Faith Karimi.2021.What 'Blackfishing' means and why people do it. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/07/08/entertainment/blackfishing-explainer-trnd/index.html Accessed on 10/5/2021
Sherliza Moé.2021.The Asianfishing on TikTok.YouTube : Sherliza Moé.May 20, 2021.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HGFIs3xhWU Diakses pada 10/7/2021
Wikipedia.2021.Cultural appropriation.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_appropriation Diakses pada 10/7/2021
Rifan Aditya.2021.Apa Itu Cultural Appropriation yang Dikaitkan dengan Nagita Slavina?.https://www.suara.com/news/2021/06/04/133617/apa-itu-cultural-appropriation-yang-dikaitkan-dengan-nagita-slavina?page=all Diakses pada 10/7/2021
Jim Crow Museum.Mexican and Latino Stereotypes.https://www.ferris.edu/htmls/news/jimcrow/mexican.htm Diakses pada 10/7/2021