The 10 Most Important Black Memes of All Time

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a meme might be worth a million.

Various black memes
Various black memes

You’ve all heard of the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s a phrase used to acknowledge the impact that a still image has in imparting meaning to its viewer. The English origin of the idiom is supposedly a modern invention stemming from various newspapers in the early 1910s, but the idea that images can elicit a visceral reaction is as old as time.

In the relatively short historical time that people have been privy to enjoying moving images through film and television, the value of photos themselves has plummeted. Gone are the days of the yearly sojourn to “the good Sears” to take a family portrait while Uncle Lou was still sober. Photography moved from a stable profession to a hobby that requires a steadfast persistence to rebuff overbearing bridezillas and cheap-ass prom moms.

Even though photographers have lost their prominence, the Internet has returned the singular image to the forefront of creative ideation. Interconnectivity has destroyed our patience for content, and thusly videos have taken a backseat to memes. Memes, reaction gifs and viral videos all move ideas through the Internet at rapid pace, but memes in particular allow an unprecedented consolidation of pop culture and shared emotion within the overarching milieu of greater culture.

The cross sections of meaning create a multiplication of thought that embrace pointed nuance. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture multiplied by black-bordered, white-impact text has to be worth at least a million. This effect is even more noticeable within the African-American community. Like the latest hot girl and her gay best friend in the Atlanta University Center, black Twitter pushes more trends into the mainstream than any other subculture.

While there are many niche communities on the Internet creating content, they are regularly sequestered to the nerd zone. “Black cool” still has clout in the online world, and the memes have been and will continue to flourish. The immediacy of the Internet has made inevitable commodification arrive much faster than in the past, so I had to unveil these now before they’re individually sponsored by Bevel.

10. Hotline Bling

This is the industry pick. But unlike the Grammys, Oscars, et al., we can acknowledge sales without claiming it’s the outright best. While undeniably popular, Drake’s calculated memefication of himself results in a deduction. Each YouTube view might as well have come with a copy of Adobe Creative Suite and a subscription to Apple Music.

9. Why You Always Lying?