Black creators on TikTok have gone on an indefinite strike and have refused to come up with new dances as they see it as a form of cultural appropriation.
Megan Thee Stallion's latest song 'Thot Shit' which TikTok was meant to make a smash hit has been affected by the strike, as the black creators who usually come up with dances are on strike hence making the song not take off like her previous ones.
#BlackTikTokStrike has been trending since June on TikTok and other social media apps, and it has over 6.5m views. Black users are using the hashtag to voice the preferential treatment they get compared to non-black users who use their dance moves to get fame and financial benefits without giving them any credit. Erick Louis a TikToker stated "Even in the spaces we've managed to create for ourselves, [non-black] people violently infiltrate and occupy these spaces with no respect to the architects who built it, this app would be nothing without [black] people, the strike is about recognition and giving credit where it is due”
Some white TikTokers also agree, Rachel McKenzie, said "Anyone that uses TikTok will tell you young black creators choreograph the vast majority, if not all, of the dances that go viral, if you look at modern pop culture and its entirety, it's just another example of how black culture sells and white people hijack it. As a white woman, I think it's important to speak to those who continue to deny credit or trivialise matters like this.”
Going viral on TikTok is getting more than just 5 minutes of fame, TikTok has allowed some users to make millions and it also has a huge impact on the music industry, any song that goes viral on TikTok ususally ends up a smash hit.
Although the strike started with Megan Thee Stallion's latest song, this isn’t the first time black tiktokers have complained of not getting any credit. A while ago Addison Rae appeared on the Jimmy Fallon show and she performed numerous viral dances created by black dancers who weren’t given any credit. One of the dances for which she received lots of views was the 'Renegade' - created by Jalaiah Harmon, a 14-year-old black TikToker, which after Rae danced to it, it began to trend and got a lot of views, but Jalaiah got no credit for it. Rae made nearly $5m from TikTok in 2020 alone, by getting views from videos she made recreating dances from black dancers, while Jalaiah made about $38,000 the same year from TikTok. Jalaiah said "I was excited and frustrated because they weren't tagging me or giving me credit"
Since then, some celebrities tried to make sure Jalaiah got the same recognition as Addison and he has been invited for shows like Jimmy Fallon, Ellen, featured in a music video and performed at the NBA All-Star game.
Lots of black TikTok creators still are fighting for the credit they feel they deserve and TikTok released a statement stating "Over the past year, our teams have continued working to elevate and support Black voices and causes, while fostering an inclusive environment on our platform and within our workplace." The app said it was training staff "to better understand more nuanced content like culture appropriation and slurs" and endeavoured to give users "tools to empower our community", although they haven’t addressed the strike directly.
Supporters of the strike say it isn't just about the app. Rachel McKenzie said "Celebrities like the Kardashians, among many others, successfully exploit black trends and behaviours that black pioneers have been persecuted for embracing, I think it really boils down to the inconvenient and uncomfortable nature of confronting systemic racism head-on." And she states that TikTok influencers refusing to give credit to black creators, are an example of "how comfortable a lot of white people are sitting in such a skewed exploitative power dynamic."
Erick Louis says "It just speaks volumes. We have these experiences outside of TikTok. As black folks, we're used to galvanising, marching, protesting, having to scream and yell to have our voices heard, it's supposed to be a safe space but even in those spaces we're forced to make a statement and protest." It isn’t clear if the strike has been a success, but it has started conversations and had an impact on trending dances like 'Thot Shit'.