"Nobody owns any particular hairstyle, fashion or appearance": Reader reaction to blackfishing controversy

Readers have given a mixed response to the 'blackfishing' storm breaking out on both sides of the Atlantic following th release of Jesy Nelson's new Video 'Boyz'.
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With headlines full of the term, the Lancashire Post spoke to a UCLan academic about the issue and what it really meant.

The word refers to someone who uses hairstyling and makeup products to create and enhance certain features to make it appear as if they have black heritage or are racially ambiguous.

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‘Blackfishing’ is an issue because it allows a person to pick and choose the “cool” parts of being black, without facing any of the discrimination that black people do.

David KnightDavid Knight
David Knight

>>>Read the full Lancashire Post report on blackfishing here.

Singer Jesy Nelson of Little Mix fame has recently been critcised for blackfishing over her choice of clothing, hair style and tanned skin, but she has insisted she merely “loves black culture’.

David Knight, a senior lecturer in the University of Central Lancashire's School of Art, Design and Fashion, says it's not a new issue, instead it goes back a century to the jazz bars of the 1920s.

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He said main problems stem from people - of any race - taking elements of African or Caribbean culture, turning it into something else, and selling it to the mainstream media without crediting where it came from.

Jesy Nelson performing. Credit: Ian West/PA WireJesy Nelson performing. Credit: Ian West/PA Wire
Jesy Nelson performing. Credit: Ian West/PA Wire

He also said that as there being an authenticity issue, there is a problem when black people lose out because of white people appropriating the culture.

He says he wouldn't have a problem with a white person using black styles for their hair or clothing, but the problem comes when black people lose out.

He said: "There's loads of Instagram influencers masquerading as black, gaining popular success and rewards from doing that. But black people aren't getting anywhere."

Here's a selection of what readers had to say:

"Let her enjoy the music she loves"

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"People are just people, we all try to emulate things we like about others. In order to stamp out racism and hate we all need to stop seeing the colour of skin or the way someone dresses or looks. This “new” descriptor is just another way of alienating people from people. The poor young woman who has been in the headlines accused of this has already been through enough torment in her mental health whilst in Little Mix Her first solo record release and the bigots and the media have to find something else to torture her with. Let her dress the way she wants , let her enjoy her music she loves. Shame on the media and for those offended by the way someone want to dress or look shame on them." Jacqui Smith, Facebook

"You can be any gender that you wish to identify as but don’t identify as black if you’re white? That about sums up how stupid it all is. You can either identify as anything you want, or you can’t. It’s stupid if you think you can pick and choose which offend and which don’t."

"Nobody owns any particular hairstyle, fashion or appearance. Personal preference and freedom of choice etc is what you're all banging on about these days and that's exactly what this is." Chris Jones, Facebook

"Never saw this word until some journalist decided to make it up to stir racial unrest" Rich Hobson, Facebook

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"Oh no, somebody's not offended are they? That never happens! What a shame, get them some bubble wrap." Laura Gunson, Facebook

"Black or white red or green who cares wear what you want do your hair how you want like what music you want .free living is for all." Keith Black, Facebook

"The senior lecturer at least read the history of music and then gave his take on it. Motown is when we came together in music." Linda Cousins, Facebook

"It’s quite funny. We’re told how cultural diversity is a good thing but when someone embraces an aspect of another culture, whether that’s how they dress or wear their hair they are vilified for it." Martyn Whittingham, Facebook