Black creators have been bringing their talents to the table for decades. There’s the Harlem Renaissance or the more recent Oscar winning short film “Hair Love,” based on a father and daughter’s relationship with natural hair.
“Hair Love” made an emotional splash on many. It highlights the relationship between a Black father and his daughter while sharing the powerful message of loving yourself and your natural hair. Hairstyles of the Black community have widely been used against its members as a form of social oppression and racial discrimination. To this day, many Black women are being discriminated against on such a basis by being told not to wear their natural hair in the workplace. In addition, this discrimination is seen in schools, starting as young as elementary school. While some states, such as California, have worked towards banning such behavior from employers with the CROWN Act, many states are still being called to reach the same amendment.
Nick Jr., a branch stemming from Nickelodeon's main television channel, has had multiple accusations of ripping off Matthew Cherry's “Hair Love.” Supporters of “Hair Love” condemned Nick Jr. with tweets such as, “We gonna talk about how companies willingly bypass Black creators to rip off their work and give opportunities to white creators?”
Others argued that Black creatives need to be secretive about their ideas because “everyone” (primarily big companies) rip off what takes time to develop and put forward. One of Cherry’s fans typed out online, “It’s so sad, we don't have as much and they take that anyways.”
On the contrary, others disagree. In the same discussion, another fan explained that “Hair Love” was far too monumental to not share. She stated, “We needed ‘Hair Love’ — and the team behind it rightfully won an Academy Award. We deserve to win so much. I just hate that we have to feel like [we’re hiding].”
Just because a creator is an Oscar winning figure does not mean companies respect the artist’s integrity and creations. In comparison, neither do the creators of TikTok dances.
The original “Renegade,” a dance trend gone wild on TikTok, was brought to life by 14-year-old Black creator Jalaiah Harmon from Atlanta. However, she only started to reap the trend’s fruits once her judgment against fellow TikToker Charli D’Amelio’s incorrect title of CEO of the move was catching on. Many began to recognize Harmon’s work and uplift her platform to be recognized as the real creator. In an interview with the New York Times, Harmon admitted, “I was happy when I saw my dance all over … but I wanted credit for it.” Jalaiah Harmon has gone on to uplift her platform further by performing her “Renegade” dance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
TikTokers Mya Nicole Johnson and Chris Cotter choreographed a dance together to “Up” by Cardi B, and it’s faithfully blown up on TikTok even since. Multiple creators have even changed out a couple of moves as the dance trailblazed the masses.
User Keara Wilson created an original dance to “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyonce. It caught on like wildfire. That she dislikes not receiving proper credit but is grateful for her viewers that flag copycat situations and bring credit to her dance.
The problem with discrediting Black creators
Black creators are already a marginalized group of individuals who face racism on a systemic level. Receiving credit for anything they create, especially if it goes viral, could immensely change their life, but unfortunately, they are often discredited.
White creators, such as Charlie D’Amelio, have risen to fame by replicating dances created by Black creators. As previously mentioned, these white counterparts received full credit for the trendy moves. To put things into perspective, D'Amelio's posts on TikTok bring in about $50,000 per post. As of August 2020, Forbes ranked her net worth at a minimum of $4 million. As of the posting of this article, she currently has a following of 112 million on TikTok with an average upper 30-to-60 million views per post.
Fellow white TikTok star Addison Rae also grew popular on the platform for her viral dance videos. In March 2021, she had a spot on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in which she replicated about a dozen dance moves majorly created by Black users. No credit was aired on the show, which resulted in backlash. Rae released a statement showing her support for Black creators after the following criticism.
However, the problem is always as follows: Black creators never reap the original fruits or hype. They have to watch other creators garner fame, fortune and opportunities from the creations before the original creators get an apology, let alone any sort of reparations. Black creators deserve more than an apology; they deserve the spotlight from the start and the same benefits that white creators earn.
For Black creatives to stop being discredited and disregarded, society as a whole must start uplifting and centering them the same way it does to their white followers. For the creatives who have already been ripped off, we must give credit where it's due. It’s better late than never, but let’s not be late ever again.