Posted on August 26, 2021

Black Users Demand TikTok Combat Cultural Appropriation

Taiyler Simone Mitchell, Insider, August 21, 2021

TikTok has a complicated and controversial relationship with Black content creators. The app has been criticized for having a racist algorithm, for shadowbanning Black creators, and not appreciating the Black origins of many of its popular trends.

But allegations of discrimination and unfair treatment aren’t new for the Chinese-owned and operated social platform – culminating in boycotts by popular, Black users that continue to this day.

Across the app, artists and activists have demanded TikTok improve the experience from Black artists and creators, as well as entrepreneurs and entertainers looking to monetize their massive followings.

Non-Black TikTok creators have been notorious for co-opting the content of their Black counterparts – known as cultural appropriation.

As defined by Maisha Z. Johnson, the phenomenon refers to a “power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”


Forbes estimates that TikTok’s highest-earners – none of whom are Black – have net worths between $1.2 and 5 million.


“You have an app that is entirely dependent on what Black people bring,” Ziggy Tyler, 23-year-old TikTok creator told Insider. “These big creators have careers because they take our dances and make money.”

In contrast, an Insider investigation found that Black creators are sometimes only making “a few dollars a day after posting videos that generated tens of thousands of views.”


In response to the criticism the platform limits Black users, TikTok in July last year launched a Creator Diversity Collective that serves as a liaison/board to communicate experiences of creators with app employees.

{snip} TikTok had also created a profile that focuses on the Juneteenth holiday, and donated approximately $4 million to nonprofits that support racial equality.

However, many TikTokers argue that the app does not go far enough to prioritize the safety and monetary gain of Black content creators.

The Creator Fund doesn’t “pay the bills” on its own, Black users told Insider. This means that influencers – regardless of ethnicity – have to rely on more than one lane of employment.