This post contains *affiliate links, which means I receive commissions for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. I only provide links to products that I use and wholeheartedly recommend.
What does it actually mean to "support Black creatives?" Especially with the immense interest in Black art, initiatives, and culture generated during the 2020 "June boom" following the murders of multiple Black Americans, calls to support Black creatives have circulated increasingly.
What does that really mean, and why is it important?
Why Should You Even Care About Supporting Black Creatives?
Yes, government and formal legal, educational, and professional institutions should ensure equal opportunity and treatment in the United States. Calls for personal responsibility to address structural societal ills don't negate the need for broader change. Rather, they're an acknowledgment of the fact that those institutions have long failed the most vulnerable members of our society.
When it comes to Black peoples and creatives, the facts are clear.
Dramatic wealth and wage gaps between Black and white populations persist in the United States. Studies show that, "At $171,000, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family ($17,150) in 2016." The pay gap has been replicated in the emerging influencer industry as well.
Reporting puts the pay gap between white and Black influencers at as much as 35%, and Black creators were completely absent of Forbe's list of TikTok's highest earners. That gap is likely replicated more broadly in the creative and creator spaces, a glaring reminder that longstanding racial inequalities persist in capitalist systems.
That's the environment that Black creatives are operating in, as well as freelancers, writers, and frankly every other Black person working in the United States. In an environment where pay transparency and equity are lacking, opportunities still limited, and the promises of governments and businesses to do better often ring hollow, what can we do as individuals?
Below find suggestions for how you can truly support Black creatives (and Black folks in general), and also things you should try to avoid. These thoughts are my own and also solicited from a number of Black creatives, makers, influencers, and doers.
Ways To *Actually* Support Black Creatives
There's nothing like encouragement. Send a note that you enjoy someone's work. Leave a comment that you tried their recommendation and loved it. Creating can often feel like shouting in the dark and positive feedback goes a long way.
Spread the good word! Send our work to a friend. Share it on Twitter or with your partner. Word-of-mouth marketing is vital and a great way to support the work of Black creatives.
Connect them with companies and people who can make things happen. Know someone seeking a creative working on x for a great opportunity (great as in NOT last minute and unpaid)? Extend a bit of your social capital and make the connection.
Subscribe to their work off of social media. Following your favorite Black creatives on social media is great, but does that really mean you're keeping up with their work? No. The nature of social media algorithms means you're only shown a portion of posts from a portion of people you follow! If your favorite Black creative has an email list, a newsletter, or any other regular product that can be delivered directly to you without an algorithm (like a podcast), subscribe there too!
Join their paid subscription services. Regular income and support is key for freelancers, creatives, nonprofits, and well, everyone. If you truly value a Black creative's work and they offer a paid subscription on Substack, Patreon, or another platform, sign up if you can!
Shameless plug, if you're into food and want to go beyond cheese pulls, join my subscription community for as little as $3 per month. Members get access to free events, original writing, exclusive content, and more.*
Buy them a coffee or shoot them a few dollars on Paypal or Venmo. Not everyone is up for a regular commitment like a paid subscription. Many creators also have their Twitter tips turned on or share their info for folks to send donations or buy them a coffee.
Reach out and ask what the best way to support someone's work is for them! Depending on their needs, the answer will likely differ. Offering your support in this thoughtful way can make creators feel less alone and also ensure you're directing your energies where they'll be most impactful.
Have human expectations. Creatives are human and their existence and work encompasses many things, including but not limited to their Blackness. Don't expect them to comment or share about every Black-centric tragedy, news story, or holiday. Hold space for them to create and show up as they are.
What Not To Do
Signal your "wokeness" by inundating Black creators with reminders of Black death or trauma. Though a DM, email, or message sharing about a lynching, mass murder, or other atrocity committed against Black peoples may be something you are interested in, Black creatives don't need you to remind them of the results of anti-Blackness.
Repost their work without proper attribution and credit. Don't take the name of their platform or book and turn it into a project for yourself. Just don't.
Expect them to answer very searchable questions about Black history or culture. Allyship requires a certain personal responsibility and a sense of self-awareness. Inundating Black creators with questions about what books to read to learn more about Black history places the responsibility for your education on them. If they choose to share those resources that's another thing, but Black existence does not need to serve your interests to be worthy.
Expect thankfulness for your own actions to be anti-racist. I've seen some very hurt feelings in the past year when someone broadcast their actions such as reading a book on anti-racism and received the equivalent of a "so what?" in response. The work you do to unpack your own biases and engage with the way white supremacy is woven into our broader society is for you.
Learn more about Black foodways in the US