Updated: Jan 23, 2021
This article is the first in a three-part series meant to examine the reasons behind prejudice in entertainment and understand its impact.
Everyone has skeletons in their closet. But these days, the pasts of many social media influencers are beginning to look a lot alike. Recently, popular TikTokers Quinton Griggs and Jaden Hossler ignited controversy when fans found out that they had liked offensive Twitter and Instagram posts in the past. This instance isn’t the first time influencers’ previous antics have been called into question, and I doubt it will be the last. Longtime YouTubers Shane Dawson, Trisha Paytas, Jeffree Star, Jenna Marbles and more have been criticized for building their careers off blackface and racist remarks.
There is a growing frustration with how many white influencers have racist pasts — and how extensive their prejudicial views were. However, their behavior speaks to a larger problem in our country. A number of BIPOC people can speak on how situations like these appear in their everyday lives. The pattern of influencers participating in something offensive and then apologizing is too common for us not to attribute it to deeper problems. I believe that there is precedent for the actions of white influencers that they don't fully acknowledge.
Influencers and the entertainment industry as a whole are notorious for neglecting to hold people in their line of work accountable for harmful behavior. For example, celebrities are continuously cast and given brand deals without having to take responsibility for their behavior. This feeds into a cycle of carelessness, assuring white influencers that they are immune from facing consequences. When TikToker Jaden Hossler’s past behavior was brought to light, he tweeted about how he wasn’t proud of who he was but never went as far as apologizing for his actions and later temporarily deactivated his Twitter account.
Even when social media stars apologize, some of them refuse to try to understand the implications of their actions and instead focus solely on how they feel about the situation. The exposing of Jeffree Star’s now infamous racist comments were followed by an “apology video” that droned on about how he projected his self hatred onto others. Not only did this completely miss the point of apologizing, but it felt as though Star saw the video as an obligation rather than a sincere form of regret.
These situations and more are an example of how pervasive racism has been and continues to be in every aspect of our society. People have already noticed these issues and criticized how they are handled. It’s time we start having a broader conversation about how these problems came to be and what needs to be done about them.
By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer