Black TikTok Creators Protest Appropriation Of Dance Trends By Going On ‘Strike’

Some Black TikTok creators have refused to choreograph moves to a new song in an effort to show how essential they are to the platform and demonstrate how their work is co-opted by white creators.

Megan Thee Stallion’s new song “Thot Shit” has all the trappings of a smash summer dance hit. Some of her previous hits, like “Body” and “Savage,” have been soundtracks for viral TikTok dance trends designed by Black creatives.

Yet, in the absence of captivating choreography, no viral dance has emerged since the June 11 release of “Thot Shit” ― which even outlines moves in the lyrics.

The so-called #BlackTikTokStrike isn’t calling on users to leave the app or even stop posting content. Instead, some Black creators who might typically contribute their choreography for the new hit said they were sitting this one out in an effort to highlight how essential they are to the platform. 

Viral compilations have since appeared online showing dance attempts from non-Black creators that have been criticized as uninspired.

Material created by Black artists has routinely been used by white TikTok users without credit. Earlier this year, Jimmy Fallon sparked an uproar when social media star Addison Rae appeared on “The Tonight Show” to perform a range of viral routines from TikTok without attributing the original choreographers, most of whom were people of color. Fallon later hosted the original creators in response.

“In my opinion, this strike is long overdue,” said Kahlil Greene, a TikTok creator and history major who was elected Yale’s first Black student body president in 2019, in an explainer about the strike posted on his Instagram and TikTok accounts. “And it’s a real-time display of what the internet would look like without the creativity of Black people and specifically Black American culture driving it.”

Greene, who posts videos on social media educating hundreds of thousands of followers about Black culture and history, among a range of other subjects, said Black users’ refusal to create a dance came in protest of being “undervalued and uncredited on TikTok.”

Erick Louis, a 21-year-old content creator and dancer with more than 230,000 followers on TikTok, was among the dancers who boycotted “Thot Shit.” His video about it was viewed more than 700,000 times on Twitter and 400,000 times on TikTok.

“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,” he told The New York Times. “We’re being forced to collectively protest.”

The strike is the latest move in a long-running fight for Black creators to get their dues on the platform, not only from fellow influencers but also from the business itself. Some people have criticized TikTok for failing to fairly compensate creators compared with other platforms, such as YouTube. Black creators in particular have called out TikTok in the past for suppressing their content by designing an algorithm that was stacked against them. 

The company did not immediately return a request for comment.

TikTok apologized to the Black community last year and pledged to do better. It reiterated that message last week in a blog post outlining its efforts to support Black creators. 

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