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You’re Kidding Me Right: Performative Activism During Black History Month?!

Black History Month is a celebration of culture and remembrance of history. Knowing the sacrifices that many of our ancestors have made and pushing for progress continues to this day—knowing that a single step in the right direction is progress. With that progress comes the massive following of changed minds for different perspectives of inclusion, especially with large companies that have listened to their consumers and made attempts to better themselves. Yet still, in the back of the mind, you have to wonder: “Is this real? Do they really believe what they are saying or is it just another ploy of good marketing to seem more likable by their audience?” This is something that I have always wondered about during the shortest month of the year. Because it seems all too coincidently when just during this month finally companies, brands, and large social media platforms finally have something to say, and in some cases their “acts of being an ally” backfire to only make their actions look performative.

Within the last week, one of the largest social media platforms, TikTok, announced they were going to hold a press conference with the special musical guest, Nicki Minaj, in honor of black history month! Now, this seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet an icon and, to some people, their role model. Yet still, it was somehow a misfire for those Black content creators who could not either get into the zoom chat or ask Ms. Nicki a question. Instead, most of the people that were able to get in AND had most of the speaking time to ask questions or ask for shoutouts were either not black or POC.

Now, I am not sure what exactly was said or what happened in the chat, but from what was said from black content creators, many of them were given non-functional zoom links or links after this event started. So by that point, the meeting was over capacity and they could no longer get in. But the fallout of this meeting was possibly worse than the miscommunication and direction of the event itself. Multiple creators go back and forth between whether those who are not black have reasoning for going at all rather than stay out of it and not take the seat of a black creator that the event was meant for in the first place. Those who are either non-black or POCs spoke out to speak on the issue that we’re able to attend to share their side of the story, saying they were invited multiple times and wanted to go to be “inspired” by black culture and wanted to learn more. Yet still, I can’t help but to wonder if that is the best possible answer than saying they just wanted to meet Nicki Minaj. Because best believe that if anyone else wasn’t on the high scale of fame as Nicki herself or no special guest, the outcome of white and POC content creator that attended would be much lower.

This was an event that was supposed to serve as a kick off to Black History Month. Yet still, all the event did was create more turmoil “Allies” that speak out so much support Black Lives Matter but would still take a seat from a black content creator for an event made for them. This mess of an event still falls back on the marketing and planning teams under TikTok that failed to represent and shine the group that this was created for in the first place. It has been shown before that TikTok naturally silences the voices of black content creators because it doesn’t follow the natural flow of popularity and what is shown as exciting to the user. Rather only spotlights the white-washed version of every dance, song and “day-in-the-life” video because that seems more likable.

But all this event shows is there can never be full confidence that a large brand can fully change from their once aggressively racist comments or silencing of the underprivileged speaking out. There will always be missteps and representation covered with the facade of understanding and inclusion.

Nia Tate

Hampton U '23

Hi, girlies! My name is Nia Tate and I am a Junior Health Sciences Major and Sociology from Seattle, Washington. I aspire to work at a non-profit organization that works towards equity in the health care system. A lot of my hobbies include yoga/meditation, kickboxing, trips to the lake, and upcycling old clothes into creating something new. I also aspire to travel the world and experience all different types of cultures and fashion. Some of my dream destinations I hope to visit include Japan, Brazil, and Greece!
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