It seems digital blackface (a.k.a. using "the relative anonymity of online identity to embody blackness" when one isn't actually Black), may have moved beyond gifs and reaction images, seeping into that once innocuous 2 a.m. takeout order of fries. According to a new report from Vice's Motherboard, a handful of restaurants across the nation are identifying as Black-owned when they seemingly aren't, potentially setting themselves up to reap the benefits for the app's new promotion. Ugh.
After a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd back in May, sparking widespread solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which may now be the largest movement in U.S. history, corporations finally began speaking out against racial injustice after years of silence, issuing statements and vows to "do better" in their business practices. In this wave of corporate support, Uber Eats introduced a function where users could order from Black-owned businesses without a delivery fee, in what the company says is a means of "standing with Black communities and using our platform to highlight and promote local Black-owned restaurants."
While a smart idea to help local Black businesses, it was only a matter of time before non-Black owned restaurants allegedly began abusing the feature. Last week, Motherboard reported that a handful of eateries that do not appear to be Black-owned are seemingly identifying as such on the delivery app, including a Washington DC Poke joint, whose website says it was founded by a woman who is Native Hawaiian and Japanese, and a Crepery owned by a man who was born in Greece, immigrating to the United States in the late '90s to attend college. Once again, ugh.
The verification process for a restaurant to identify as Black-owned on the app is seemingly easy to exploit -- at least in its initial steps. Only asking eight relatively simple questions, including the restaurant's name, if the establishment in question is a franchise (as the program says its exclusively for "small- to medium-sized non-franchise restaurants") and if owners want their business to be highlighted as being Black-owned, the initial screening never once asks if those filling out the form are, in fact Black. While Uber Eats does have a protocol for this type of abuse, saying that they're "working with a wide range of local organizations to identify Black-owned restaurants" as well as "continuing to work with these organizations to ensure the accuracy of our lists," they encourage users to email their support team if they know of a restaurant falsely self-identifying as being Black-owned. As a pop culture writer, I'm no expert on e-commerce, but come on, there has to be a better way to do this than crowd-sourcing the internet for answers about when you get something so, so wrong.
Remember folks, blackface, digital or IRL, is never ever a good look.
Top Image: Shutterstock