“Diversity should be seen as an asset, not the sole value of a person’s channel.”
In light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests in response of the death of George Floyd, Black creators across platforms have come forward to share their experiences with race and how they’ve been treated by the ones they use. Companies and social media platforms have increasingly been criticised for their lack of diversity and the sidelining of BIPOC creators as these statements have come to light.
Black creators within the BookTube community on YouTube have been exceptionally vocal regarding their experiences on the platform.
Despite previous attempts to call attention to the position of Black creators on social media, YouTuber Bowties & Books has spoken about the “constant terror” they felt as both a Black person, but also a citizen of Minneapolis, the city which has become synonymous with the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed.
They expressed frustration at the lack of support shown for Black YouTubers and authors in the past, saying “to be Black in the book community is to be continuously disregarded.”
Myonna Underwood, better known as myonna reads on YouTube, also noticed a sudden increase in followers following the Black Lives Matter protests, gaining 400 subscribers and explaining she would typically gain “100, if I’m having a good day”.
She shares that “it was upsetting that this is what it took for us to gain [subscribers]” in a video uploaded to her channel, where she discussed her experience of being a Black creator in the BookTube community.
YouTuber mynameismarines echoes this sentiment in her video, what does this all have to do with booktube?, saying, “It shouldn’t take Black creators coming onto this platform now and bleeding out just a little bit more for you to understand.”
Naya Perkins of NayaReadsandSmiles has publicly terminated her contract with Book Outlet, a popular “bargain book” shop, after controversy surrounding the racial diversity of their Vlogger Friends.
After five years of partnership with the company, Naya decided to end her affiliation with the company after it released a public statement on Twitter, where they wrote they looked for “family-friendly” vloggers to represent them. Naya responded to the tweet with, “If maintaining a ‘family-friendly’ appearance means ‘WHITE’ I’m out. Not your token black girl. Do better.”
WOW. Please respond to my email. I’d like to terminate my contract immediately. When I became a Vlogger friend my channel was SMALL, I could barely afford books. And if maintaining a “family-friendly” appearance means “WHITE” I’m out. Not your token black girl. Do better. https://t.co/zBfSk5Jv5s
— Naya perkins (@Nayasmilesforu) June 3, 2020
Several other YouTubers, including Beautifully Bookish Bethany, have also ended their contracts with Book Outlet following these comments. Naya also expressed how colourism has allowed her to gain more traction on YouTube, saying, “The more European you look, the more palatable you are as a Black person, the more opportunities you get.”
Many of the YouTubers speaking up have criticised individuals and companies for “performative allyship”. They claim that efforts to promote Black literature and authors have been ignored – or even hijacked – by white creators in the past.
Ongoing research into the YouTube algorithm and its possible racial biases is being made.