Social media influencers and the antiracism battle

Daily police protests and calls for equality are serving as a wake-up call, especially on social media. Some content creators with huge social media followings are attempting to use their platforms to amplify black voices, which have been silenced for far too long.

"I truly think last week people just started to understand racism is still a problem in America," said Danielle Prescod, BET's style director.

For most people, their Instagram feed has changed greatly over the last three weeks; following and unfollowing people who are serving up content around social justice reform, rather than a perfectly poured latte or the ultimate capsule collection. For some high-earning influencers who are new to this work, the allyship is real. For others, it's good for business.

"I do think that a lot of non-black bloggers and influencers are doing performative actions right now," said Amanda Johnson of the blog Sequins and Sales.

"It is on us to mandate certain diversity elements in the campaigns we accept and the projects we do," entrepreneur and author Hitha Palepu said. Before the country erupted into protests and unrest, Palepu was vocal about pay disparity—in real life and online—specifically, that which adversely affects women of color.

"I have been the token woman of color on most of the campaigns I've ever done in my 10 years of content creation online," Palepu said. "I know I'm the least paid because I am the last one to be cast."

In the wake of #BlackoutTuesday, the social media campaign that aimed to turn attention towards black lives, Palepu has adopted a strict diversity clause in all of her brand partnership contracts to level the playing field.

Amanda Schwechel of the Instagram handle Arbor and Wood is pledging a portion of her earnings to black-run businesses while also demanding brands respect a myriad of body types and skin tones.

However, she worries that for many influencers, especially white bloggers, this isn't a movement but a moment.

"I definitely, absolutely get the sense that some of these, especially influencers with larger platforms, are concerned about women of color coming into their space," Schwechel said.

That may be true for some. There are also white bloggers attempting to share the love and the money.

"Honestly, I think influencers have such a great space at the moment to make such a difference," Johnson said.

Influential bloggers such as Brooklyn resident Grace Atwood have committed to mentoring black content creators. Atwood has posted about sharing negotiation strategies and contacts in the hopes of helping another content creator strike a more favorable deal.

Prescod encourages other white bloggers to follow Atwood's lead and use their voices and massive reach to show the impact you can have by being antiracist.

"In the last week, I have gained 50,000 followers because white women have realized they only follow other white women," Prescod said. "It does provide new opportunities for people. Companies look at follower count when they decide who to hire for jobs."

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