YouTube Superstars Grapple With Past Racist Behavior

Shane Dawson is one of several to apologize for their earlier actions

Shane Dawson
Shane Dawson is one of several prominent YouTube stars apologizing for past behavior.
By Tobias Carroll / July 3, 2020 4:03 pm

We’re presently living through a pop-cultural moment in which a reckoning is taking place, where cases of racist or racially insensitive behavior are being called out. That’s included prominent white comedians apologizing for their past use of blackface and calls to revisit the legacies of beloved television shows. Now that reckoning has spread, and it encompasses the world of YouTube celebrities as well. And here, things have taken a particularly contentious turn.

At The Verge, Julia Alexander explores how this has affected the YouTube world — particularly the online presence of Shane Dawson. That Dawson has relied on offensive material in the past isn’t really news. A 2016 article by Nathan Rabin in The AV Club referred to Dawson as “a controversial YouTube superstar with 10 million followers as well as an unfortunate love of racist, sexist, and homophobic stereotypes.”

Dawson recently posted an apology video referring to his past behavior, but he’s remained under fire for his past actions. As Alexander writes:

Target said it would stop carrying Dawson’s books. Makeup company Morphe reportedly cleared its shelves of Dawson’s products. YouTube temporarily suspended ads on all three of Dawson’s channels, including his main account that boasts more than 22 million subscribers. And that account lost nearly 1 million subscribers over the past week.

Dawson isn’t the only prominent YouTube star who’s recently posted an apology. Alexander notes that Jenna Marbles and David Dobrik have also recently apologized for their past behavior. The collective reaction to these apologies is also prompting a larger conversation about YouTube’s earlier, less moderated days — as well as about what words and actions are necessary for a resonant apology.

These apologies are but one part of a larger conversation being had across the entertainment industry — a conversation that’s been long overdue.

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