Following Chadwick Boseman’s passing, many people, especially members of the Black community, felt saddened to see a cultural icon go so suddenly. We took to social media to grieve collectively. However, not everyone on social media shared the same sentiment. Many seemed more concerned about the future of Black Panther than the fact that a real person had passed away.
Most notably, Screen Rant, a news source focused on television, film and related content, published an article titled “Can Black Panther 2 Still Happen? Marvel’s Options Without Chadwick Boseman” within an hour of the announcement of his passing. Many immediately called the publication out for being insensitive in using its platform to speculate about the future of a fictional character rather than to send its condolences to Chadwick Boseman’s loved ones. Screen Rant later took down the article and issued an apology for the speculative piece.
Screen Rant’s article was not the only ill-timed post about Chadwick Boseman’s passing. Many social media users reposted his last social media post in which he expressed his support for Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris for Vice President and implored others to vote for the Biden-Harris ticket. While there is no harm in encouraging people to vote for a particular candidate, it’s in poor form to politicize someone’s death in such a way. Many of the people who used his final post and passing in that way, however, did not apologize for their choices despite receiving immense backlash.
Most of the outrage came from Black people who are tired of Black death being used as a political tactic to further someone else’s agenda. The response to the use of Chadwick Boseman’s passing as a marketing and campaigning technique adds another example to a recent phenomena called Black outrage.
Black outrage, to put it simply, is exactly what it sounds like – when Black people become outraged by something (usually on social media) and share it with other Black people. Sharing these posts and articles, although not ill-intentioned, allows them to reach a broader audience and, consequently, advertises the initially offensive thing for significantly cheaper than it would take to promote properly. Although the idea of Black outrage is nothing new, using it as a marketing technique is a somewhat recent development as a result of the growth of social media.
“Black outrage” isn’t solely limited to the instances discussed previously as it now permeates many different spheres in our culture. From social media influencers to makeup brands, many different industries employ Black outrage as an advertising technique. Whether or not companies and influencers knowingly use Black outrage is up for debate, but we can all see that it is successful nonetheless.
Take the Kardashian-Jenner family for example. While I cannot definitively say that they intentionally use Black outrage to promote their brand, I can say that Black outrage plays a significant role in their relevance.
I personally find myself often forgetting about the Kardashian’s as I do not follow them on social media and do not watch their shows. However, whenever it seems that their relevance is dwindling, I always see a post about them on Black Twitter discussing their cultural appropriation or Blackfishing, which is using Black features that were historically ridiculed for one’s own benefit. It’s almost like clock work at this point.
Blackfishing usually occurs on social media when a non-Black person posts photos of themselves with drastically darkened skin (either through filters or tanning) and lip fillers to give themselves an “ethnically-ambiguous-yet-Black-leaning” look. Many influencers and every day Instagram users are guilty of Blackfishing on their platforms.
Other influencers besides the Kardashian-Jenner family rely on Black outrage for promotion as well. Some other notable examples are Nikita Dragun, who is also well known for cultural appropriation and Blackfishing, and Jeffree Star, who is a #certifiedracist at this point. Both influencers have a history of actions that are offensive to the Black community and continue to act in the same way without a substantive apology – especially in times when they hope to promote a product or service of some sort.
Even companies have begun to use Black outrage as a marketing technique. Most notably, Tarte Cosmetics faced controversy for their Face Tape foundation line in early 2018. After promising an inclusive shade range, many were disappointed to see how the foundation barely had any darker tones and was practically unusable by the majority of the Black community. The scandal caused so much outrage that many people went out to buy the product to test it out for themselves. Eventually, Tarte released a more inclusive shade range, but they had already gotten the publicity needed due to Black outrage.
I believe that it is completely valid and understandable for us, particularly Black women who constantly deal with misogynoir, to be outraged at the actions of these individuals and companies as they are very discriminatory to us. However, it is also clear that our outrage boosts their advertising, which is the main goal of these influencers and companies.
In the age of social media, such outrage grows exponentially – especially with the existence of TheShadeRoom, an Instagram-based news outlet that mainly focuses on celebrity news and issues within the Black community. With the ability to share information much more quickly than in traditional news articles, TheShadeRoom often compiles tweets and Instagram posts that display outrage within the Black community. This method of publication allows such outrage to spread quickly, and this spread brings more publicity to the issue for free – which is exactly what many influencers and companies want.
To me, I think it would be more beneficial for these companies and influencers to be actually inclusive of and respectful to the Black community. We have seen time and time again how success comes to those who actually do so – such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and beauty guru Jackie Aina.
Black people are deserving of more than being pawns in advertising tactics – especially when it is so easy to include us and be successful. In the aforementioned examples, both Rihanna and Jackie Aina have had notable success with their makeup releases due to their efforts to be inclusive. Their success alone should be enough to discourage companies and influencers from relying on Black outrage and encourage them to include the Black community instead, which is a choice that I, and many others in the Black community, would welcome.
photo from DailyMail.com, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West wearing box braids as promotion for her KKW makeup brand