A lot of people have taken up roller skating to pass time during the quarantine. Although some thank TikTok for its comeback, many believe that the platform discredits the constant influence that the Black American community has on roller skating.
In a Mashable article, Jess Joho writes, “The whitewashing of skating’s online resurgence can in part be traced to racial biases embedded in social media algorithms used by platforms like TikTok.”
Although the hobby has saturated many “For You” pages these past few months, Joho believes that TikTok is purposely suppressing Black American skaters in its algorithm in favor is white, cisgender women. Because this social networking service is no stranger to anti-Black disposition, the claim came as no surprise.
“The African American community often gets overlooked in so many ways: music, politics, science, literature… [however, for me] it was normal to walk outside my house [in South Central] and see groups of African American skaters,” Rosa Flores, an English teacher and former roller skater, said.
She believes it’s important to acknowledge the impact that people of color have on positive activities such as these. Although Flores wasn’t aware that these skaters were not being acknowledged on certain social media platforms, she does admire the African American community for their contributions to roller skating.
“My awareness and appreciation have greatly grown [for] the community, but also has made me think about what other things that African Americans have done that the community does not get credit for,” Luisa Alvarez, a senior and roller skating newbie said.
In addition to believing that TikTok is a biased platform, Alvarez also thinks it is necessary to give credit where it’s due. She believes that it is important to spread awareness about the Black American community to prevent stereotyping and further whitewashing of this hobby.
“Social media like TikTok have created roller skating ‘stars,’ who are ‘influencers’ getting plenty of likes,” Sonia Hanson, an art teacher and roller skater since 2009 said. “The problem with this is that many of these newer skaters are not acknowledging the history of skating that is rooted in African American culture… skating is and has been a strong part of the African-American cultural experience in America.”
Hanson believes that when white cisgender roller skating influencers render themselves oblivious to their privileges, it only causes conflicts within the roller skating community. Some of these women even credit themselves for the accomplishments of Black American skaters — one of which was the desegregation of roller skating rinks during the civil rights movement.
There is still a long way to go to prevent the suppression of Black American skaters, but acknowledging the influence that this community has made on roller skating is the first step.