by Kianna Goss

You might enjoy learning viral TikTok dances—but do you know who really created them?

After my multiple failed attempts to learn the impossible counts of new TikTok dances and spending numerous hours scrolling while getting trendy songs stuck in my head, a problem had been brought to my attention: TikTok does not credit Black creators. In June, after the rapper Megan Thee Stallion released her new single “Thot S***,” Black TikTok users/creators boycotted using the song on the app, and I found myself seeking out information on the topic.

According to Onicia Muller, writer for Today, “When asked about the purpose of the strike, Black creators shared that they are tired of not being credited and not receiving equal awards for their creativity.”

Black creators said their intentions were not to hurt the sales of Megan Thee Stallion’s new song, rather, their purpose was to shed light on the fact that Black TikTok users are not credited for the dances that others go viral with. Without dances created by Black individuals, there would be fewer dances for TikTok users, regardless of race, to steal—because no dance credits are given to Black creators in viral videos that others post. While many may not see their actions on TikTok as stealing (because one purpose of the app is to create a dance-sharing community), when dances are replicated by other individuals who receive more views without a shout out to the original creator, it’s stealing the creativity of Black creators. 

Cache McClay, a writer for BBC News, interviewed TikTok users and shared their responses. Eric Louis, a Black TikTok creator who helped organize the strike, told the Washington Post, “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.”

Rachel McKenzie, a TikTok user and a supporter of the strike said, “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 [and] as a white woman, I think it’s important to speak to those who continue to deny credit or trivialise matters like this.”

The success of the strike expanded into other social channels and grew on Twitter’s platforms as many Black individuals shared that the strike was protecting the originality of Black creators. Other creators moved away from TikTok and on to TipSnaps to earn money for their creativity.

So, individuals who enjoy TikTok as much as I do may be wondering: How can I keep the app but also support the movement? Reading more about the movement and the purpose is the first step. I’ve linked several articles above that share reasons why this issue is important. There is a community committed to making TikTok fairer, and you can find content from Black users by searching #BlackTikTokStrike on Twitter.

We can all make progress if we hold individuals accountable for cultural appropriation when they take credit for dances from Black choreographers. As a TikTok user, I call out individuals who discredit the originality of Black creators by posting comments under their videos. I encourage you to challenge yourself by speaking up about the issues this movement brings to light. Whether it’s a comment, making a video, reporting the page, or creating a new hashtag on social media, these are vital steps in strengthening a movement towards supporting Black creators’ work. What steps will you take to create social change?

About Kianna Goss

Kianna Goss is a senior at Bradley University, majoring in journalism with a double minor in sociology and advertising with public relations. The importance of community involvement is to use your voice. Kianna’s voice is one of the strongest platforms she has, and utilizes it through her writing. Being a Black woman, Kianna often writes to give a voice to the Black community to gain control over the media that portrays them in a negative way. Kianna is a writer with different form expressions. She has written poetically, through blogs, newspapers, and opinion pieces. Kianna always looks for more opportunities to grow as a writer and person. Kianna is currently the social media director for Her Campus, works as a peer mentor for Bradley’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and is a team leader/caller at the Bradley Fund. Being able to explore her creativity is what she loves most about Bradley. The Communications department is molding her into the journalist she aspires to be.