White people stealing from Black creators, without credit or acknowledgement, is a tale as old as colonization. And while seeing this play out in real time should be old hat by now, we’re living in a different age. Injustices are less likely to go unchecked. Black people have more of a voice than ever before. Social media allows for these grievances to be heard on a global scale. And some white folks are at least pretending like they want to hear it…even if it’s just to protect their brand and their bank.
Either way, one of the most recent examples of this cultural appropriation comes from Tik Tok-er Addison Rae, cosigned with the help of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
On the show, Rae participated in a segment called “Addison Rae Teaches Jimmy Fallon 8 Tik Tok Dances.”
The title was a bit misleading because Jimmy wasn’t learning or attempting to perform the dances at all. In fact, looking at the segment, Ms. Rae was barely doing the dances herself. And it’s not at all surprising. She is a white young woman attempting to imitate the dances largely created by other young, Black Tik Tok-ers. And she was doing the moves, but there was something deeply lacking in her execution.
But a white woman being a substandard dancer is not cause for offense. It’s commonplace. What was the issue was that fact that Rae was given the platform in the first place. I know Jimmy Fallon is not in charge of booking talent. But his team certainly dropped the ball on this one. They should have invited the actual creators of the dances to show Jimmy and the nation how they are properly done.
And while Rae didn’t tap herself for this position, she can hold some of this blame as well. Not only did she accept the offer to appear on the show, knowing she didn’t create not nare one of these dances, she never mentioned the creators in the interview she did with Jimmy after that skit.
In the days since this segment aired, most people of color and Black people specifically are able to spot the problem here. A white woman performs the dances created by other Black Tik-Tok-ers, to a lesser standard, and is rewarded with a national platform—for no other reason than she’s an attractive white woman. Meanwhile, the Black creators of the dances are erased entirely. And with the way racism in brand deals are set up, the opportunity to appear on Fallon was far from Rae’s only one. There will be many more for her. And there are financial implications for her being amplified at the expense of the Black creators of these dances.
But what about the actual creators? It’s no secret that Black people run social media, just like every other form of culture. What we’re talking about, the nation is talking about. It’s been said before and I’ll say it again here, culture does not move without us. Yet, in the telling of the history we’ve helped shape and create, we’re often left out of the conversations and the opportunity to monetize entirely. And though it’s been happening for centuries, it’s not okay. And it never has been.
Thankfully, the offense did not go unnoticed.
After the segment aired, “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin tweeted Jimmy Fallon to let him know this wasn’t right.
Then, in a since-deleted tweet, photographer and author, Bria Celest shared some of the creators of the dances Rae performed so dryly.
We verified the creators of the dances below.
Savage Love, Jason Derulo
Check out the reactions to Rae’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon on the following pages.