Controversial YouTube video begs question: Can mixed people be guilty of Blackface?
OPINION: Biannca Prince is no stranger to controversy, but her latest video brings up issues of colorism and white privilege that many still find harmful but that she seems to ignore
A married YouTube couple is now the target of a campaign aiming to have their videos removed from the platform, after one of them filmed herself wearing blackface and acting “ghetto.”
In the viral clip, YouTuber Biannca Prince explains to the camera that she plans to play a “prank” on her husband by wearing a disguise. These days, filmed pranks are a staple of these sorts of channels that follow the daily lives of social media couples who film themselves in various contrived scenarios.
However, last week, Prince — who is biracial — took things a step further than usual, and decided to mock the Black side of her lineage in the process.
“I am about to look like a literally different person,” she giddily explains in the video in which she transforms into the character “Bebe Shaquita.” “I’m about to be a ghetto girl. I’ve got to learn how to talk.”
Not surprisingly, Black Twitter was not amused and soon users launched a campaign to have the Prince family channel removed from YouTube for violating its standards on hate speech.
Repeat offenders = Trolls?
What makes Bianca Prince’s actions particularly insufferable for her critics is the fact that this isn’t the first time she’s been called to task for what many perceive to be a bias against dark skinned women.
In June, the young mother found herself in a firestorm of social media backlash after she and her husband posted a vlog of their daughter’s birth. In the video, filmed just moments after baby Nova came into this world, Biannca seems visibly disappointed and makes several comments about being taken aback that her daughter doesn’t, “have pretty eyes,” because they are brown and not hazel like hers.
When fans sent messages about how dismayed they were by her colorist reactions to her own child, the Prince family capitalized on this drama, by doing a follow up video with a click bait title, “Nova has colorist parents,” in a clear attempt to gain traffic for their page where they get paid for views.
“When I said I wish she had ‘pretty eyes,’ I didn’t mean she doesn’t have pretty eyes,” Biannca said at the time. “When I said pretty eyes, I meant the term ‘green eyes.’”
Because apparently “everybody knows” brown eyes are not considered pretty.
The fact that this family is already facing another colorism/race related controversy barely three months since the last time, has some speculating that this recent offensive video may have intentionally been filmed to stir up more drama (and revenue) for their channel.
In fact, in just four days since it was published, the blackface clip has already received almost two million views. Which means if this is a publicity stunt, both Biannca and husband Damien are laughing at our collective rage all the way to the bank.
But this does beg us to ask an interesting question though…
Can mixed Black people be accused of blackface?
Blackface has a long and sordid history in this country and the mere mention of it has otherwise decent white people hesitating to reach for their bronzer for fear of being accused of it.
At least once a year a Kardashian gets slammed for blackface if they take a tanned photo in the wrong lighting, and high fashion brands are constantly fending off calls for boycotts whenever an exaggerated Jim Crow era cartoon somehow makes its way into their designs.
But usually Blackface is an act of ignorance done by a non Black person. So does the word still apply when the offender has at least one Black parent?
I grappled with this question all morning until I remembered a conversation I had with a friend earlier this year about his girlfriend. She was blonde, European and incredibly fair skinned, but because her mother was biracial this woman considered herself to be a Black. And since I never feel the need to chastise people on their personal identity, I shrugged it off and kept it moving.
But when my friend attempted to use his relationship with his beloved as proof that he “dates Black women too,” that’s when my antenna went up and I gently pushed back with, “Uhh… not so fast fam. She may be Black but she is also white presenting. And we all know that race is often as much about presentation as it it about genetics and culture.”
I still stand by that assertion today.
We all know that all people of color are in some way judged based on their proximity to whiteness. Black and Brown people who are educated and refined are told they “sound white” since that is the race associated with being able to put a sentence together. And Black women’s access to mainstream media attention is often directly correlated to how racially ambiguous they appear.
As hard as many of us work to dismantle the internal racism that’s been spoon fed to us over generations of anti-Black rhetoric, the truth still remains: White people are not the only people who have access to white privilege. In a lot of spaces, presenting as white, or showing a close proximity to whiteness has perks too (and social media makes these privileges even harder to ignore).
So using that logic, does what Bianca Prince did count as Blackface?
Yeah. I think it actually does.
The saddest part is that I seriously suspect that deep down she knows this, and is hoping that the collective pain and anger of dark skinned women who are sick of being mocked, will prompt all of us to hate-watch her channel and line her pockets.
If that isn’t the very definition of a coon, I don’t know what is.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric