Let’s Talk About TikTok’s Preference Problem

Video-sharing app TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media apps and has created another way for teenagers to gain massive amounts of followers. TikTok benefits off the concept that seemingly anyone can go viral for the most random videos, inspiring everyone to try to make their own. The app is undeniably fun, but under all the innocent jokes, there’s a very real problem. Many black users have noticed the lack of diversity on the platform’s “For You” page. 

As a frequent user of the app, I’ve thought about this a lot. Many of the most popular users, some with tens of millions of subscribers, are white. Jokes are often made about how “the hype” is reserved for white creators because there are simply so few black users, or just users of color in general, that have reached a large following. Dances that are invented by black creatives, such as the famous “Renegade” dance, are popularized by white users while the inventors are left with no credit.

The app’s determination of what goes on your personal feed seems to depend on which videos you often save, comment on, or like. Whenever I scroll past another black woman’s video, I’m sure to like it, just to show support. Seeing other black users on my For You page is a rarity, no matter what I try to let the app know.

I’ve also noticed an increase in TikTok videos that promote colorism. I constantly see videos of someone talking about their “preference”- one that excludes black women 99% of the time. Supposed racial preference seems to be just another way to bring down black women, and its maddening how many white women, and other women of color, simply stand by and accept a compliment from someone who just insulted the women of their own race. There are moments of solidarity, where I see others stand up for black women, but I feel like they are few and far between. It’s harmful, not to mention tiring, to be on an app where people who look like you are constantly vilified.

When will people learn that to say you have a type doesn’t mean you have to be disrespectful to those you don’t like? Each time I see women respond to videos where racial preference is being discussed, they are called bitter and jealous. No, we don’t need your approval. Black women just want basic respect, the chance to scroll through social media without consistently being put down. Never mind the fact that the reasons that are given for not liking black women– that we’re too loud, too angry –are based only on stereotypes that can’t possibly be represented by everyone who’s black, a woman, and dark-skinned.

Black women are as diverse a group as any other. Some of us are loud, some of us are quiet. Some of us like to play sports, others are artists. Many of us are both. I’m tired of the one-dimensional view that’s perpetuated by the media because black women are so much more than a singular stereotype. And even for the girls who conform to the stereotype, don’t they deserve respect as well? There are too many young girls using this app that will grow up with these negative messages, and the creators of this app need to take action. Until then, remind the young black girls in your life of their worth. The internet won’t do it for them.