Hue and cry: Instagrammers get death threats for ‘posing’ as black
Racist abuse rains down on women accused of 'blackfishing' to hook more followers
Instagram users are being accused of wearing makeup and hairstyles to pose as black women as part of a bid to gain more followers.
Arguments about the practice of “blackfishing” have become so toxic that one 20-year-old student from Birmingham, UK, has received death threats and racist abuse, Times Select can reveal.
Alicja Brzostowska was deluged with hateful comments and told to “stay white”, after pictures of her wearing braids and tanning products were posted on Twitter alongside one of her as a lighter-skinned 13-year-old.
She said: “I know I haven’t done anything wrong. But to have 200 people telling you you’re dumb and you need to commit suicide, on the first day I was scared to leave the house. I thought people would be like: ‘She’s blackfishing, let’s throw acid at her’.”
Brzostowska, whose parents are Polish but of Indian ancestry, said she has naturally “olive” skin and dark hair and was often mistaken for being Spanish or Mediterranean.
She said in the photos in which she was accused of blackfishing she had use tanning products, but only to make her skin one shade darker than it naturally is.
The University of Birmingham student said that in the pictures circulating online she had been wearing braids for the first time to help promote a friend’s hair-care business.
Arguments about cultural appropriation have been prompted in recent years after the US Kardashian and Jenner sisters were criticised for adopting the hairstyles of black women, including braids and cornrows.
The online debate ramped up again this month when a Swedish model, Emma Hallberg, was accused of “posing” as black in pictures on Instagram.
Some of her 200,000 followers expressed shock when pictures of her with lighter skin emerged online last week, with many saying they had assumed she was mixed race because of her skin tone and hairstyles.
The 19-year-old has since said she doesn’t see herself as “anything else than white” and that she gets “a deep tan naturally from the sun”.
Since the furore over Hallberg erupted a number of Twitter threads have been dedicated to hunting and naming other people supposedly caught blackfishing.
The term blackfishing is an adaption of the term catfishing, which is when someone adopts a false persona online to deceive others.
Last week Brzostowska woke up to a stream of messages from friends telling her she was being named in a tweet.
The third-year accounting and finance student said: “The next thing you know my phone is blowing up with notifications and I just felt really anxious because I didn't know what was going on.”
Brzostowska has since received about 200 messages including one that read: “White bitch, your [sic] just another wanna be African American.”
She now worries that the viral attention she has been receiving could affect her ambitions to forge a career in business and marketing and grow the mental health charity she has founded while at university, Underscore.
“I am not someone who disregards people’s opinion,” she said. “But I was not trying to be black. I have not even used the black emoji in my life.”
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited