Since its founding, YouTube has served as a mirror of our evolving society, reflecting and amplifying systematic issues that still haunt us offline. But it took until this summer for most of the internet to finally turn on Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star, two prominent YouTubers each with a deeply problematic past of racism. In the name of humor, Dawson rose to fame with comedy sketches where he used blackface to portray caricatures and made deeply damaging jokes regarding pedophilila and bestiality during his career. Star has a history of using racial slurs and voicing verbal threats against Black women.
With a bullet point list of their offenses, it is incredulous that these YouTubers managed to stay more than relevant on their platforms, amassing an audience of millions and collaborating on a massively successful makeup collection just last year. Their popularity signals a two-pronged problem — the failure to hold white men accountable for their actions and the refusal to acknowledge the voices of the BIPOC community. For example, Nigerian-American beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina released an open letter on Twitter back in 2018 to completely denounce Jeffree Star’s “blatantly racist behavior.” But the replies back then were mixed: some pointed out her past drama and others praised her for speaking out.
Now, Star and Dawson face lasting consequences after rumors circulated that the two were heavily involved in shattering the public reputation of rising beauty guru James Charles last year. Fellow beauty influencer Tati Westbrook spoke up on how the two allegedly manipulated her into exposing Charles with a deleted video titled “BYE SISTERS” last year. Catch the timeline of their drama here, but keep in mind that none of the four principal players included any BIPOC. Only when Star and Dawson were exposed for hurting two other white people did the internet decide to completely turn its tide on their racist pasts. The implications behind their recent signal still bear true to an alarming concept — the threats and violence committed against POC and WOC are simply not on the same level as the pain of white people. One has to wonder if the national reckonings of BLM protest and social justice added just enough heat for Star and Dawson’s non-POC followers to take a stance.
In situations like these, it is imperative to reflect on the disregard for past voices against these two YouTubers and work hard to uplift the voices of BIPOC creators who are continuously commenting on the systematic racism and double standards encoded within the YouTube beauty community as a whole.
Here is a starting list of videos by BIPOC creators/commentators you should check out if you’re curious about the current situation:
- amandabb examines the criticism of “cancel culture” in response to YouTubers with racist pasts and the vilification of Black creators who had spoke out against Star in the past.
2. As Told By Kenya discusses amongst many things the inherent politicization of makeup and compares the different expectations brands place on white and black beauty gurus.
3. nappyheadedjojoba breaks down Westbrook’s recent apology video in this livestream and highlights how Westbrook disregarded racism until it came to serve her well in this current political climate.
4. dangelowallace sums up a timeline Jeffree Star’s past controversies and the continuous inability for Star to demonstrate a change in his behaviors.
5. Prachi S talks about how the devaluation of the Black community within YouTube reflects a societal trend of casual racism.
6. Kat Blaque questions if the internet really cares about Dawson and Star’s racist behaviors or are simply using it as performance activism to “cancel” these two personalities. She also expands on healthy ways to disengage with YouTubers who continue to exhibit racism in their content.