White Influencers Can't Stop Stealing Content From POC

by Virginia Duan
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and RUNSTUDIO/Getty

Friends, every fucking week, a new white woman is outing herself. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even blink when a company helmed by a white woman takes credit for creating a product or trend created by POC. Whether it’s white women blowing up big on TikTok copying (and poorly, I might add) dance moves and trends invented by Black women and then being featured on late night television shows or signing to a label, it’s so common as to be just another day being a POC in America.

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so infuriating. If it weren’t so financially lucrative to these culture vultures when their inspirations — if the originators are ever credited — are boxed out.

Like, even in this day and age of the screenshot and internet, white folks keep trying to outdo themselves, passing off other people’s work and content as their own. Even the concept of benefiting from people of color — for free and with brazen impunity — is lifted from their white ancestors. (Ahem, cue the entirety of U.S. history.)

It’s the cultural appropriation for me…


Getty Images/Maskot

The term “cultural appropriation” is bandied about a lot on the internet nowadays. In part, because white folks (and to be honest, it’s not just white people) keep culturally appropriating.

You would have to be willfully oblivious to not see how Black-led internet culture is the elite fashion houses of the internet, creating the haute couture equivalent of culture. By the time white folks catch wind of a trend, it’s become a knock-off, mass-produced, shapeless Walmart version of the original.

For those of you who’ve skipped class, cultural appropriation is taking and profiting from a culture that isn’t yours. It’s just a nicer version of saying theft — but we have to use sanitized words like “cultural appropriation” so the white media will use it.

It’s theft when white women like sixteen year old dancer Charli D’Amelio — the second highest earning TikTokker according to “Forbes” — who in February 2020, got Twitter backlash for acting as if she created the Renegade dance and not properly crediting original creator Jalaiah Harmon. Only after being called out did D’Amelio retroactively credit Harmon.

It’s always the same shit, different day.

I was supposed to write this article last month — when a bunch of white female comedians/influencers stole a Clubhouse room idea from creatives in the Asian diaspora featuring whale moans. Yeah, you read that right: whale moans. The white women claimed they came up with the idea, and in true white women fashion, gaslit the original creators and tried to silence them with their larger Twitter followings.

Life got away from me (you know, all that pesky anti-Asian violence and racism throwing a wrench into my mental health) but imagine my lack of surprise at yet another white woman fronted company (this time, Whipped Drinks) claiming to invent Dalgona, a whipped coffee trend made popular by South Korean actor Jung Il-woo and swept South Korea as early as January 2020.

According to Buzzfeed, after members of the Korean and Asian diaspora called them out, Whipped Drinks issued a limpid apology (as expected). “We are sorry and we acknowledge that this was inspired by Korean culture and we completely stand by the Asian community,” wrote the company on an Instagram post. “We did not intend to make it seem that we invented dalgona. In the spirit of that, a percentage of proceeds from every sale will go to the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), building power with AAPI women and girls.⁠”

Look at me, being timely without even trying.

Incidentally, Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of NAPAWF issued the following statement to Scary Mommy:

“No one from Whipped Drinks has reached out to us and NAPAWF will not be accepting any donations from Whipped Drinks. We oppose the long history of white supremacist culture appropriating and profiting from the cultures of communities of color, while the systems that prop up whiteness deny us the resources we need to thrive.

“NAPAWF builds power with Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls so that our stories are heard and our experiences seen. We won’t be made invisible by racism and sexism that extracts from our communities or allyship that is performed.”

We love to see it.

Please, just stop

I can just hear the internet now: What’s the big deal about Dalgona coffee and a white woman trying to profit off a trend? Isn’t that understandable and just good business sense?

Honestly? It wouldn’t be a problem if companies credited their sources — and in the case of Dalgona coffee, companies definitely owed their start to the South Korean trend. Obviously, whipped coffee was not invented by South Koreans, but Dalgona was. Dalgona is an affordable South Korean candy that South Korean parents used to make after the Korean War from heated sugar, water, and baking soda. It’s something that is uniquely Korean.

Like, how hard is it to just stop all this jackassery before it starts? How much time and labor would have been saved if Whipped Drinks had just acknowledged their inspiration in the first place? That they perhaps had seen a South Korean trend and jumped on it? Who would have begrudged them?

Instead, the labor of so many people went into educating, publicizing, and calling out the company — not to mention all the time and labor the company had to exert to fix this publicity mess.

Please, white women, just stop. Do better from the very start.

Yes, ideas aren’t copyrighted

No one is disputing the fact that ideas are not copyrighted. What is problematic is that white women pass these creations as their own — that they’re the arbiters and inventors of taste. Like why be so greedy? What’s so hard about giving credit where credit is due? Like, why are they so grabby handsy?

We all know that even when given proper attribution, white women and influencers will get the views and the hits — not the original people of color who came up with the ideas. Whether it’s because these white women already have large platforms and capitalize off of women of color — or because these women are launched into fame because of murky TikTok and Instagram algorithms, it happens time and time again.

White women and influencers take content conceived of and executed first by Black and other POC content creators, and then erase the contribution and brilliance of the original BIPOC creatives. They get caught, get called out, cry some white women tears, make vague and unsatisfying apologies, promise to do better and give back to whatever community they stole from, and everything goes back to normal.

We POC get erased again and again, and these white women make money and gain even greater influence. This is not acceptable. White women, please, come up with your own original ideas to profit from. Or, at the barest minimum, give credit where it’s due — and don’t wait until you’re called out to make weak apologies.

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