Black TikTok Creators have started striking back to protest against a lack of credit for their work.
Many of these TikTok trends, particularly those involving dancing, have often been started by Black creators. But as soon as a White creator takes it on, it becomes trendy and they somehow end up getting the credit. Tired of not receiving any credit or reward for their creative work, many Black TikTok creators refused to participate in or create any new dances until they received their credit.
#BlackTikTokStrike has been trending on TikTok and Twitter. On TikTok creators, specifically Black ones, shared videos of less inspiring dance routine with almost no creativity with the hashtag.
Black creators came together and decided not to choreograph a single step to the song in hopes that it would force non-Black users to create their own moves. The goal of this strike was to highlight just how impratnat Black creators are to such platforms.
These videos are prominent in those that feature Megan Thee Stallion’s latest hit song, “Thot Shit.” Instead of finding thousands of videos of creators dancing to the song and creating yet another viral dance challenge, you will find videos of Black creators calling out the lack of credit for such trends.
Erick Louis, a Black TikTok creator, had a video on here where he made it seem like he was sharing a new dance, but actually he was calling attention to the movement. Seconds into the video, he pursed his lips and flipped the viewers off. This is what his caption read: “Sike. This app would be nothing without [Black] people.”
“Similar to the ways off the app Black folks have always had to galvanize and riot and protest to get their voices heard, that same dynamic is displayed on TikTok,” Louis said. “We’re being forced to collectively protest.”
While this video of his only had more than 440,000 views, another creator copied this video and received over 900,000 views. This is quite similar to a TikTok controversy that occurred recently regarding Nicki Minaj’s song “Black Barbies.” The songs lyrics are something along the lines of “I’m a fucking Black Barbie. Pretty face, perfect body.” Creators, especially Black creators, used this song on TikTok to flaunt and celebrate Black beauty. However, white users soon jumped on the trend and this started thee debate on cultural appropriation.
A Long Standing Issue
It is true that TikTok has only been here since 2016; however, it has become a prime example of how technology can be used to uphold systems of racism and discrimination.
“A large swath of American popular culture comes from Black culture and that is before the internet even existed. We can take any historical period and look at popular culture, at any particular historical period, and see the ways in which white folks who have access to mainstream capital and mainstream media and other forms of access were drawing inspiration from the art forms and creative forms of Black folks.”Sarah J. Jackson, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication
Now let’s be honest here, this is definitely not a new issue. It has been going on for a quite across various social media platforms, TikTok just happens to be one of the more prominent ones. White creators often receive special treatment when it comes to these trends. In fact, late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon had even invited TikTok star Addison Rae on his show for her amazing dance routines, none of which are her creations. She performed a total of eight viral dances on the show and not once did anyone mention the original choreographers of the dances. The show simply put their usernames in the description box of their YouTube video after airing the episode and that is it.
This action did not, however, settle well with the audiences. After receiving quite the backlash, Fallon invited the original creators on his show and gave them the credit they deserve. What happened on the Fallon show is not the first example and it definitely was not the last as they new strike suggests. Black creators have often been overlooked because of their white counterparts.
At the NBA All-Star Weekend, many white TikTok creators were invited such as Rae and the D’Amelio sisters. The trio received the best seats because of their TikTok fame. They even sat for interviews and danced on the court with the NBA cheerleaders and players. One of the dances the girls taught them was the Renegade dance which was a huge viral dance challenge. What is interesting to note is that the dance’s original creator – Jalaiah Harmon, a Black teenager from Atlanta – was no even invited to acknowledges until their was a controversy on social media. People criticized the girls and the NBA for now acknowledging Harmon sooner.
“I was happy when I saw my dance all over,” Harmon said. “But I wanted credit for it.”
A Systemic Issue
Stallion’s sings is a perfect song for the strike and rising awareness to the issue these Black creators are facing as her song also had a similar message. She found herself in quite the controversy when she collaborated with Cardi B on their flamboyant single “WAP.” In the “Thot Shit” music video, she alludes to this by calling a politician.
“The women that you accidentally trying to step on, are everybody that you depend on,” Stallion says. “They treat your diseases, they cook your meals, they haul your trash, they drive your ambulances, they guard you while you sleep.”
The video features many Black women as essential workers – grocery store workers, office staff, nurses, surgeons, police officers, etc. The underlying theme of the song and the video is that the labor women of color bring in lays the foundation for the nation’s economy.
What these Black creators are protesting is beyond just receiving credit for their dances or getting the brand deals that were given to there counterparts. It is about exploitation and how Black folks have always been important in terms of labor and nothing more.
“The issue here is ownership. The worker class is disenfranchised and does not have ownership over the means of creation and distribution.”Li Jin, founder of Atelier, in a New York Times interview
While many Black creators were able to participate in the strike, some had to step back due to financial issues. Some of these creators are paying their bills with the money their receive from their videos. With the strike, their user engagement suffers and so does their check.
“When you’re working on these apps, they’re funding most of your life, so your back is against the wall. If you don’t post for a day or two, you’ll open your Creator Fund like, ‘Wow, I haven’t made any money.’”Kaylyn Kastle, 24-year-old Black creator in a New York Times interview
Before the strike even started, the trend of TikTok dance challenges was dwindling. Many of the starts like Rae and the D’Amelio sisters who were front lining these trends switched to more vlogging based content. White creators like these monetized on the dance when they had the chance and they are happy. It is the Black creators now who are left with nothing as their dances are not getting the attention they deserve.
There is a significant historical context that we all forget when issues like this come up time and again.
“Since the founding of this country, Black art forms, Black dance forms, have been appropriated, watered down, repackaged and used to make money by white folks,” Jackson said. “And so, if you put it in that context of that longer history of basically stolen labor and stolen creativity, then you start to see why it matters to people and why it’s important to people to be credited for the origins of these things.”
On the surface issues like these may seem harmless to some, but the impact it has in people speaks to a much greater racial issue at hand. How long do Black people have to keep fighting for their rights every single day?
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