The Ethnicity & Diversity Online Panel took place on Saturday at Summer in the City 2015. It featured creators including Eman Kellam, Jana Damanhouri and Scola Dondo. It was chaired by Oliver Greaves.
Taking place in Panel Room 3, the Ethnicity and Diversity Panel explored what it currently means to be a BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) content creator on YouTube, the difficulties faced and the opportunities present. The panel was chaired by Oliver Greaves from Base 79, and featured Jana Damanhouri, Ann Hoang, Scola Dondo and Eman Kellam.
The panel began with a discussion about tailoring content for an audience, with Oliver asking Ann whether she purposefully creates content based on her audience, who are predominantly Asian, or whether her videos reflect her true self. “Both,” she answered, before explaining how she likes to create content for both an Asian audience and a non-Asian one.
Scola was asked about a recent video of hers, Being a Black Girl in 2015, which was a departure from her usual health-based content. Scola explained how she was hesitant at first to create such content because she didn’t know how her audience would react, but she felt it was important for race issues to be visible and received a lot of positive feedback for it.
She reflected on being one of the few black children in her area growing up and having to explain to her friends what was and wasn’t acceptable to say. “I want to be that person as well for my audience to be like, ‘don’t say this’ and ‘don’t say that’ because no-one’s ever taught them,” she said.
Jana, who was born in Saudi Arabia, said she wanted to educate her audience about sides of the country the mainstream media often ignores. She explained it is important to make honest videos about normal day to day life in the country which don’t pander to negative stereotypes . “It’s very easy to see [Saudi-Arabians] as other and see them as one type of person rather than seeing the how spectrum of what everyone is like in that country,” she said. “There’s good and bad in every place.”
Eman explained how he wanted to create content different to what already exists. “You don’t really see someone pull a prank like that on someone of that ethnicity,” he said, about his viral video PRANKING MY AFRICAN DAD.
The issue of diversity on YouTube was raised, especially among the most successful creators, who in this country are predominantly white. Scola said it was difficult to pinpoint why exactly. “On YouTube it’s our choice to see what we want to see, so I guess it’s something that’s quite deep rooted,” she said.
Jana suggested that being BME can be used to your advantage instead of hindering you. She believes that the “white male vlogger” market is quite saturated, and that your ethnicity can help you to produce more original and diverse content. She did point out however that YouTube itself could do more to promote BME issues, pointing out the lack of promotion around Black History Month.
When the panel was opened to question from the audience, one member asked whether it is easier for white YouTubers to become more successful than BME YouTubers.
Jana believed that due to the YouTube demographic consisting heavily of young white girls who are attracted to a certain type of appearance, it is easier for good looking white males to become popular because of how they look. Ann agreed, saying “I think we live in a world where Caucasian beauty is favoured more than other beauty”.
Eman brought up the example of the gaming community, which he considers to be very diverse, and that the landscape is different among the different communities on YouTube.
Scola said how you are inclined to say yes because of the situation in the wider world, but it’s difficult to really say on YouTube where certain hurdles shouldn’t exist. She also echoed Jana’s earlier sentiments that being a person of colour can offer its own advantages. “You can’t use it as an excuse,” summed up Jana.
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