VICE, Blackness & Poverty Porn
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
Sorry for the hiatus lol.
VICE has positioned itself as"immersionist brand of journalism in the pursuit of more authentic and interesting stories" and I suppose this style of journalism has revealed itself in VICE covering "interesting" stories of the Afro-Caribbean population in their home countries.
I first noticed VICE's questionable journalism when they released their Skin Bleaching documentary, in which they sent a white woman to Jamaica to interview black women on why they bleach, ignorantly puzzled by their desire to be lighter-skinned. First of all, sending white reporters to these spaces that are predominately filled with black people is essentially the white saviour complex, which, like racism and white supremacy, is institutionalised and systemic. New-age media forums that present themselves as "for the people" should acknowledge that this complex is insidious in its' roots, is historically founded on the transatlantic slave trade and on the pillaging of black bodies.
Neo-colonialism/colonialism has meant that (on a surface level) Eurocentric beauty standards have become synonymous with beauty ideals for over 500 years. Questioning black women on why they bleach, or calling out black women who sell bleaching creams (Black Chyna) only exposes white people's inability to understand that unlearning/ re-learning new definitions of beauty will always be suffocated. There is evidence of, literally, centuries of whiteness making itself known in black lives as a presence that wounds, hurts and tortures. Not only that, most of these lesser-economically developed countries have been established on the groundings of racism, which is intrinsically violent on and towards black peoples worldwide. In predominantly black societies, being lighter skinned means being promoted to higher positions, owning property and making important, governmental decisions for your country. Black people's lives have been defined and ruled by a system that simply does not acknowledge that racism is systemic and affects every aspect of our lives. In *that* documentary, Jamaica is reduced to a poverty-stricken country filled with ignorant black women, who seek self-worth and validation by damaging their skin to look like the fair skinned who are interviewing them.
Their most recent documentary on codeine cough syrup addiction in Zimbabwe is framed under these words: "Despite the growing problem, the government has not yet opened rehabilitation clinics". The men in the video also state that the main reason why they do these drugs is unemployment. A crucial mid-point explaining how colonial powers visited the African continent and severely broke down it's structural ability to develop, as well as the ramifications of the slave trade was missed out. These half-hearted attempts at exposing "interesting" issues come at the expense of actually creating nuanced documentaries that reveal how Europe underdeveloped Africa. Guyanese historian, Walter Rodney, explicitly refers to African countries as 'underdeveloped' and not 'developing' because it is from the continent's history and present of exploitation that created their socio-economic position. VICE's decision to explicitly avoid an explanation of the country's circumstance is yet another example of how large white-owned media companies neglect to create accurate stories of the black experience.
These documentaries reveal what we already know. Blackness has been homogenised by these white media institutions that steal and replicate generic black culture in order to profit from and ridicule it. In this era, where digital content takes higher precedent over traditional media formats, it is important that we, as Afro-Caribbean diaspora, disintegrate the existing social structures that render us powerless to dangerous and damaging narratives (that are literally filled to the brim with poverty porn). Creating content surrounding such a diverse ethnic group (being "black" isn't really a thing) that lacks such nuance only tells me that you don't care for black histories and stories.
Do better VICE.