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When I woke up on March 28, I did what I always do at the start of my day: check Twitter. While scrolling through the typical Sunday Funday tweets and marketing advice on my feed, I stumbled on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon video clip “Addison Rae Teaches Jimmy 8 TikTok Dances.”
“No, he didn’t,” I muttered to myself.
With my mouth agape, I watched Addison Rae demonstrate the dance moves without the same enthusiasm or flavor as the dance originators, the majority of which are Black. And I wasn’t alone.
My leisurely social media scroll quickly became active sleuthing, looking to see if the original TikTok dance creators like @flyboyfu (Laffy Taffy) or @keke.janjah (Savage) were credited—to no avail. According to several media reports, the YouTube clip description credits the dance creators, but it’s unclear if someone added this retroactively.
I’m never surprised by the erasure of Black creators, but I’m always disappointed by it.
Unfortunately, Jimmy Fallon’s blunder is not a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence; Black contributions are often overlooked by the media, marketing industry and more. Anyone remember the movie Bring it On?
Here are some actionable tips for brands who want to learn from The Tonight Show’s blunder.
Don’t be performative
Social media can be a powerful tool, but it can’t fix non-social media problems. Jimmy Fallon positioned himself as an ally to Black people in June 2020, but less than a year later, he’s back in the hot seat for erasing Black creators and failing to value their contributions. By not addressing the root cause of any problem, your brand will always be at risk for an avoidable crisis.
A brand wants social media to post Black squares in solidarity. Those performative social media posts do not improve systemic racism within the company and in some cases, do not win back customers.
Look at impact
As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I could say the same about marketing. Good intentions are meaningless if the impact is Black creators and audiences are out in the cold.
Unintentionally undervaluing Black creators is a problem. A Bloomberg feature did not uncover executives writing memos of wanting to pay Black creators less than their white counterparts. There was a justification for why Black creators weren’t paid equitably to their white counterparts. Nielsen reports that Black women set trends across industries, so ignoring them doesn’t make any business sense.
Instead of focusing on intention, look at the impact. Ask yourself: “Hey, these policies are not inclusive of Black creators. How can we fix this?”
If you genuinely want to be an ally for Black creators:
- Audit your influencer program. Are there pay discrepancies by race? Fix it.
- Pay Black creators to train or inspire your team, hire them for campaigns at the market rate and always give proper credit.
The best marketers are curious. They’re always learning and testing. Although the marketing is probably not responsible for The Tonight Show’s oversight, a little curiosity could have prevented the backlash he’s currently facing. Imagine if someone had asked, “Hey, who created these dances? Maybe they should be featured on the show.”
Don’t be lazy and depend on your Black coworkers to guide you. Do the work. Read Black publications like Essence, follow Black celebrities like Issa Rae or some of the TikTokers who weren’t on the show like @theemyanicole.
No one knows everything, but curiosity can give you insight into what you don’t know or when you need to tap into the experts.
Here is the list of the original creators of the TikTok dancers not featured on The Tonight Show:
- Do It Again – dc: @noahschnapp
- Savage Love – dc: @jazlynebaybee
- Corvette Corvette – dc: @yvnggprince
- Laffy Taffy – dc: @flyboyfu
- Savage – dc: @kekejanjah
- Blinding Lights – dc: @macdaddyz
- Up – dc: @theemyanicole
- Fergalicious – dc: @thegilberttwins