Before its debut, fans were eager to push Megan Thee Stallion's new single to the No. 1 spot on music charts. But an agreement between Black TikTok users to prevent white creators from stealing their dances might unintentionally affect the song's stats. At the time of writing, "Thot S---" (released June 11) held the No. 16 spot on Billboard's "The Hot 100" chart.
So why are Black TikTok users on strike? We spoke to some of the names behind the boycott to get the scoop as well as what they hope people take away from it. Here's everything you need to know about the #BlackTikTokStrike.
Black TikTok creators are tired
When asked about the purpose of the strike, Black creators shared that they are tired of not being credited and not receiving equal rewards for their creativity. Think of brands using, but not compensating, Kayla Newman (aka Peaches Monroee) for "on fleek" or "Renegade" dance creator Jalaiah Harmon, who went uncredited for a long time. Even Jimmy Fallon featuring TikTok star Addison Rae (@addisonre) on the "Tonight Show" to teach him popular dances from the app was cited for inspiring the #BlackTikTokStrike. (Fallon later invited the Black creators behind the dances to perform their own choreography.)
For the record, the strike was not intended to hurt Megan Thee Stallion's record sales, the creators we spoke to shared. Her popularity as a musician and dance challenge inspiration just happened to work for the protest's purposes.
Black creatives knew "Thot S---" would be popular, and therefore, users would be searching for dances. And without the choreographed work of Black users, the lack of exciting dances is notable — proving their point.
While that's the trending hashtag, Imani Barbarin (@crutchesandspice) said she doesn't necessarily see it as a "strike."
"I see it as Black people throwing up their hands and saying, 'Well, if you think our creativity doesn't matter, then you do it. A lot of times, people call for (Black people) to (boycott) the app itself or to strike by not posting at all. In a way, (the 'Thot S---' strike) shows Black people really do move the culture forward," she said.
As a disability rights activist, Barbarin decided to post a joke tutorial to the song as a way to "bridge the gap" while throwing her "disability in as a wrench to appropriation."
Skai (@Skaibeauty), who prefers not to share her last name, is a social media influencer who gained more than 1.3 million followers since creating her account in January 2020. Skai only learned about the strike only after posting her second video to "Thot S---."
"Black creators staying in unity is a very beautiful thing, and to stand for something is amazing. I wish I would have known about the boycott before I posted," she shared, adding that she doesn't necessarily think a strike is the right answer. "I feel like we can't stop creating because of what others are doing. … It just doesn't feel right to have such good ideas and to feel like you can't share them with the world. Take note of these accounts that are (stealing) and hold them accountable."
Skai is the only TikTok user whom Megan Thee Stallion has reposted and this is her second time going viral with one of the artist's songs.
The TikTok strike is getting a reaction
A TikTok search using the official "Thot S---" sound shows how important Black creators are to the app's success.
"With this ban, you can simply see that (Black) creators are a pivotal component to the success of TikTok and these challenges," content creator Jayde Payne said. "It is just unfair that these creators work so hard just for someone else to reap the benefits. Black creators and their content should be broadcasted to mainstream media more than it is."
One white TikTok user, who went viral for her lackluster gyration to Megan Thee Stallion's latest single, became the reason many learned about the strike when others teased her for the choreography. In response, the TikToker muted comments on that video. She also made about three posts using the "Thot S---" sound to respond to critics. Despite having several choreographed dance videos on her page, she said that she was "just vibing" and "lip synching," not attempting to gain likes for dance skills.
Black people won't stop creating
Although Black TikTok stars are frustrated, going too long without creating feels unnatural to many of them. To maintain their sanity and show the artist some love, they started posting secret choreographed dances. These videos are linked to "original" sounds, which prevent those who aren't in the know from discovering and co-opting their dances.
Theft has negative emotional and financial consequences
Shahem Mclaurin (@5hahem), a social worker and therapist who shares mental health content with their growing TikTok following (and uses the pronouns they/them), explained that the #BlackTikTokStrike is a perfect opportunity to start a conversation about "racial gaslighting."
"We rarely talk about racial gaslighting, where groups of people gaslight other groups of people — specifically marginalized groups," they said. "You gaslight someone when you cause them to question the validity of their emotions or emotional experience."
To Mclaurin, refusing to acknowledge Black creators' influence on culture is traumatic.
Kai Jmarii (@kaijmarii) is a dancer and comedian who learned about #BlackTikTokStrike after he and his friend posted their "Thot S---" dance routine. Unfortunately, Jmarii has seen his dances reposted without being credited on several occasions. As an act of solidarity, he deleted his already popular post and re-uploaded the video with an "original" sound instead of the searchable clip.
Jmarii says social media recognition and popularity has led to multiple paid opportunities, like a recent sneaker commercial, and not getting credit for his work can affect his opportunities. "My goal is to earn a living from being an artist," he said. "I would love for my dancing to take me global."
Be an ally and supporter, not a thief
Phoebe Hines (@oh.its.phoebe) is the creator of multiple viral TikTok dance challenges and gets paid for song and product promotion. "Giving dance credit is everyone's responsibility," she said.
Hines shared a message to all professional and regular users: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think that a lot of minority creators get their content ideas … stolen from them. But, it's so important to ding the creator."
Sometimes finding the original creator can be a challenge, especially when there is a culture of not giving credit.
Jmarii admitted to posting content without giving credit at times because he was unable to find the original creators of the moves. However, he has also deleted and re-uploaded videos to properly tag the choreographers. Jmarii said he believes that if someone likes an idea enough to use it, giving credit by tagging is the least they can do.
Not to mention, he added, it's a way to gain more followers and recognition.