Black Tik Tok has a lot to offer.
Primarily, the app has been a hub for Black dance creators like Keara Wilson, who created the viral “Savage” dance. It became a jumping off point for her to grow her following and visibility, and she is not the only Black creative who has seen major success on the app.
Comedians like Jazymn W also have us entertained with their Tik Tok shows. In Jazmyn’s “White House HR” series, she keeps her audience engaged with her well-timed catchphrase “gimme yo paperwork.” As Donald Trump’s painstaking presidency came to an end, “Trump’s Last Day” gave a sense of comedic relief when nothing was really funny; it earned Jazmyn 1.5M likes on the Tik Tok app.
On the Black beauty side of Tik Tok, makeup artists like Challan Trishann, one of Fenty Beauty’s ambassadors, exude Black Woman Magic in terms of makeup beats, fashion, cosplay, and general pretty girl energy.
Still, one of Challan’s most viral (and controversial) moments was when she posted a video saying, “When you walk in the function and ain’t no Black people,” and she and her friends walked away. She received hate for this video, but it spoke to a deeper issue of safety for Black people.
Really, the story of Black Tik Tok is twofold. On the one hand, Black people use the app to highlight their creativity and curiosity. On the other, Black people have to fight the same racism we fight outside of the app, which brings us to the Black Tik Tok strike.
For the record, the Black Tik Tok strike goes deeper than Megan Thee Stallion. Although the app was responsible for blowing up songs like “Savage” and “WAP,” there is a greater responsibility to call out the anti-Blackness perpetuated within the app (see below).
Despite what HipHopDX said, “Thot Shit” has been doing well without a Tik Tok dance to accompany it. According to a tweet from a Megan Thee Stallion fanpage, Thot Shit is now the "third highest track by a female rapper on the Spotify US chart currently."
Moreover, the strike is not meant to be a blow Megan but instead a powerful response to racism within the Tik Tok app. Megan has released a song of the summer (potentially), and Black Tik Tok creators refused to dance to it on an app that has made billions from dances. That's a statement.
Really, this all started with the renegade.
14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon choreographed a dance to K. Camp’s “Lottery,” and it went viral, but her credit was lost in translation. Soon after, the dance was accredited to Charlie D’Amelio, a popular White Tik Tok teen (Harmon is Black).
After a New York Times article was published about Harmon, it forced a conversation about crediting Black creators for their work. Historically, this has been a problem. “In February 1953, Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton released ‘Hound Dog’, a blues record that spent 14 weeks on the chart,” according to Daniela Espinosa, who wrote for Rare Radar.
Espinosa further stated that this was Big Mama’s only hit song, selling over two million copies. Much to Big Mama’s surprise, the song’s success would not end there; she would just stop reaping the benefits of it. In 1956, Elvis Presley recorded a version of the song that was “repurposed for a white audience,” said Espinosa.
Afterward, it became his biggest classic, but Big Mama’s name was not attached to it. This became common practice in the music industry with artists like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars being forced to take action to rectify their wrongs. Sheeran is still in court fighting the $100 million lawsuit from the family of Marvin Gaye for his song “Thinking Out Loud,” while Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson gave The Gap Band writing credits for their smash hit “Uptown Funk.”
The formula is simple: a Black creator makes a hit record (or popular dance in TikTok’s case), someone non-Black capitalizes on it, and they are able to essentially monetize their theft. Take Addison Rae for example.
Rae is a White Tik Tok star who has gone viral for using viral dances that were created by Black people, and it’s made her millions. BBC reported that, “Rae made nearly $5m (£3.6m) from TikTok in 2020 alone, getting views from videos she made recreating dances from black choreographers. Although her exact earnings are unknown, according to one estimate Jalaiah made about $38,000 the same year from the app.”
In March, Rae was invited to dance on Jimmy Fallon’s show to demonstrate viral Tik Tok dances. However, she did not create these dances; Black creators did. Fallon recognized his mistake and invited Black creators on the show in April, but they had to record their dances at home while Rae was on stage in front of the audience.
Given these discrepancies, the strike is warranted. However, it was not just about the dances. It was also about the way Tik Tok treats race. Last year, there was a Tik Tok blackout during the protests because of allegations that Tik Tok was suppressing videos related to the protests.
This year, that conversation was reignited when Ziggi Tyler exposed fallacies in the algorithm. When he went to the creator marketplace and typed in “supporting white supremacy,” he was able to update his profile with no problems, but anything involving the word Black caused an error to occur.
Tik Tok has apologized for this, said Insider, but these incidents keep resurfacing. So, is it time to divest in Tik Tok? Share your thoughts in the comments below. ~ℝ