Everyone seems to love Black people when they’re on our screens — on our television screens via shows like black-ish, on our laptop screens as glamorous rappers, on our phone screens as memes and gifs to express our emotions and feelings — but does that love translate into an investment in our survival and sustainability? How might using the likeness, image, and iconicity of certain Black people to do emotional labor be just as exploitative and appropriating as using our slang and wearing our hairstyles?
When you google Maxine Waters news stories a lot of news and political websites pop up to document her latest memorable quote or strong opinion. And U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, the longest-serving Black Congresswoman, is nothing if not a woman full of strong opinions and memorable quotes. It’s because of this that the results of your ‘Maxine Waters’ google search will also be lightly sprinkled with a couple of headlines from Mashable and TMZ.
Means of self expression that are native to Black people often fuel the our pop culture interests. For example, there’s a new show on TV Land (focused on politics and pop culture, ironically) called Throwing Shade with two white hosts. Take a second to google the origins of throwing shade and you’ll quickly see how transferrable Black culture has become, and not just to the Kardashians. Gifs and memes may seem like a universal language, but there is a reason why few of them are as effective at capturing your mood like ones that feature NeNe Leakes and now Maxine Waters.