It’s a normal Friday night out with the girls: Drinks are pouring, hair is down, when suddenly your white friend, Hailee, snaps a photo of the crew WITH THE FLASH ON. While Hailee is a good person and an ally to the black community, marching beside you, donating to the ACLU, and making her book club read How to be An Anti-Racist for four meetings in a row, she has just rendered you, the sole black person in a sea of white faces, a shadowy ghoul detectable only by your floating teeth.
Hailey, unfortunately, still has quite a bit to learn.
All over the world, every day millions of black faces are lost to their white friends’ camera flash. Beautiful black women who’ve spent hours on their flawless makeup cease to exist in group photos. Baddies who should be immortalized on the gram, gone in a click. And the faces that aren’t erased entirely, are completely unrecognizable.
“Oh I was in the picture. It just looked like I’d gone bobbing for apples in a pile of grease right before it was taken.” said Danita. “God, how could the same person who took and posted this photo have also used her savings to kickstart a new Ava DuVernay documentary.”
And the horrors of the white induced flash don’t stop there. Another black woman, Kendra, recently fell prey to another one of it’s common symptoms. “My skin looked all bluish gray. Like I was dead and my friends were Weekend at Bernie-ing me thru a taco crawl,” she sighed. “I expected this from a white stranger or my conservative cousin, but my closest white advocate? That hurts.”
And where does the solution lie? Is it on darker skinned friends to ask for a reshoot sans flash or to set the camera settings themselves? Hardly. A November study from Cambridge University shows that any decent white person of average intelligence should be able to simply look at their black friend and look at the picture of their black friend and determine without additional tools or research if the photo is accurate.
And as far as correction goes, science has come a long way. Dr. Yvonne Jackson of Howard University recommends, “Walking closer to a light.”
While this particular affront continues every day without significant adjustment, there have been some other improvements in multiracial group photos.
“Even though flash is still an issue on occasion, my white friend and community organizer, Megan, has pretty much stopped using Instagram filters that lighten my skin color, which is like, 98% of them,” says Latoya. “So that’s…better.”
But there’s still more to do: If our white collaborators can check the privilege of off duty police officers they can also check that the flash is off. The erasure of black bad-bitchery reminds us all that even our best allies still have something to learn.