Black People Made Clubhouse Great. Protect Them.
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Black users made the Clubhouse app more functional and way more popular. Clubhouse owes it to them to prevent their mistreatment on the app.
Have you experienced actions against your account or any forms of discrimination on Clubhouse? Report it here please.
When I joined Clubhouse at the beginning of 2021 it gave me hope. With Black musician Bomani X as the face of the app icon, and countless rooms moderated by Black creatives and other professionals, it was clear that Black users found this platform to be a safe place to speak about things that mattered to them or resonated with their sense of entertainment. It was instantly interesting and extremely valuable to experience the expression of these individuals in an environment where they could set the tone.
Knowing that established social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have recently acknowledged the dangerous use of their apps to propagate racism and violence, I soon began to wonder if Clubhouse was committed to being different. I questioned whether this seemingly “safe space” for Black people would be maintained or destroyed as the app grew, and if its creators understood the potential it held.
I began researching the role that Black people have played in the progression of Clubhouse, and found out that as a new wave of Black celebrities and other users joined the app last year, they transformed the content on Clubhouse and innovated new ways of using the app’s features. (Source: CNBC) The initial use of Clubhouse as a place for conversations about technology expanded into a much broader spectrum of topics. Today there are comedy rooms, audio dating games, and even Clubhouse concerts and musicals with singers and actors performing live to audiences of 5,000 people at a time.
But what has struck me even more than the amazing artistic potential of Clubhouse that its Black users have unlocked is the potential for this platform to move us forward in conversations about race and justice. More and more rooms where white people can hear Black voices and learn about the realities that Black people face are springing up everyday, and especially during a time of social distancing, this contact is priceless. And Black people are communicating and building on topics that matter to them and their community without the constant gaze of outsiders. Something powerful is happening on Clubhouse, and I believe the app’s founders have a responsibility to protect it.
Community guidelines, town halls and new features to report and block harassers are an important step, but they are not enough. I, along with a coalition of other Clubhouse users, demand that Clubhouse proactively take the stance of being actively anti-racist. This means that Clubhouse will commit to going beyond the usual language of anti-discrimination in its policies and ensure its commitment to combating anti-Blackness with substantive, not performative, action. We want the Clubhouse team to create and publish guidelines which take into account widespread internalized anti-Blackness as well as systemic and unconscious racism. We demand that in the enforcement of community guidelines, Black users are protected from those who would accuse them of “reverse racism” for calling out white supremacy. We demand that Clubhouse hires more Black employees at every level and ensures that anti-Blackness within the company itself is addressed and prevented vigilantly. And we demand that Black leaders within the Clubhouse community be more than just an image to boost the app’s credibility --- they must be respected as thought leaders and stakeholders in creating the future of this community.
“I think they can do a better job, but I don’t know what that job looks like,” Bomani X has said of Clubhouse. “But there’s a lot of conversations that we have as a community about our role in social media. We always get the short end of the stick by creating the culture and pushing the popularity of these apps and platforms but not always having an equal share in equity.”
As we advocate for the founders of Clubhouse to forge a better experience for Black users on social media and our society, we stand in solidarity with other historically marginalized groups (e.g. Asian, LGBTQIA, women, etc.) who have experienced prejudice from other users in recent weeks. The time is now for Clubhouse to commit to policy and action that will mitigate future instances of hate speech on their platform.
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