This time last year, while working from home and baking copious amounts of banana bread and simultaneously guzzling down homemade strawberry daiquiris, I made the decision to finally download TikTok.
As a millennial, I had the impression that the platform was primarily for Gen Z and that I was way too old to even be on it. Nonetheless, with not as much to do and becoming bored with repeatedly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, I thought it’d be good to check it out – and boy was I right.
Since joining the app, I have perused various spaces, subcultures and encountered opportunities to learn and laugh like never before.
I entered into the world of cottagecore where girls were dressed in pretty floral dresses and roaming around fields like it was an episode of Little House on the Prairie, I became obsessed with oattok – a space filled with baked oat recipes that made me salivate as I scrolled from one aesthetically pleasing visual to the next – and saw myself in the numerous Black TikTokers worldwide who produced content that had me marvelling at their creativity.
But among the intricate dance choreographies, catchy phrases and general Black excellence – there was an obvious disparity in the reach and engagement of Black TikTokers compared to their white counterparts – even when they created many of the trends.
There are numerous references we can look at to prove this. In 2019, Jalaiah Harmon created the extremely popular ‘Renegade’ dance which was all over TikTok.
While Harmon received some recognition, white TikTokers like Charli D’Amelio and Addison ‘Rae’ Easterling really benefitted from the popularity of the dance (while not giving credit to Harmon until facing backlash), gaining millions of views with Easterling even invited to teach the dance to NBA cheerleaders at the NBA Dunk Contest in February 2020.
This happened again with the ‘Savage’ dance, which accompanied the popular Megan Thee Stallion track in 2020. The choreography was created by Keara Wilson, another Black TikToker who once again didn’t get a massive amount of credit or engagement compared to white content creators on the app.
This trend of Black creators developing content and white TikTokers benefitting from it goes beyond the platform and speaks to Black culture as a whole.
Blackness – from our dances to our hair, nails to even our vernacular – is often co-opted and magnified by the masses when it’s presented by those who are not Black.
But we are seeing a lot more pushback as Black creators are demanding to get the credit they’re due – and the current strike by Black TikTokers is a great example of that.
A number of Black creatives are purposely not creating dance routines to Megan Thee Stallion’s new track ‘Thot Sh*t’ in a bid to highlight what they bring to the platform and demand credit for their creativity.
One Black content creator explained her feelings on the ‘strike’, saying: “if you wanna take our sh*t, we’re not gonna give you a dance”.
“Black people are saying it’s enough… I never thought I’d live to see the day we actually go through with it and see just how much some of y’all need us. Especially with making dances”.
She concluded the video by saying: “for all my melenated brothers and sisters… we are on strike. We’re not making a dance for th*t sh*t, sorry”.
This act of resistance has been hailed on social media. Many support the movement and have watched on as other TikTokers attempt to create dances to fill that void, only highlighting the important role Black creatives have on this platform.
At a time where many of us are more vocal about the injustices we face, it’s great to see Black TikTokers taking a stance and highlighting how key they are not just to the platform, but the creative industry as a whole.