Who made it racist in here?


    As you all might know by now, I'm on Tiktok (@keilatiradoleist)! It was a decision I made on a whim for my 36th birthday in 2020. I had heard lots of things about the app and started an account for my small business, Vida Botanicals. It didn't take very long for me to realize that the app is all about the powerful algorithm. It is such that once you begin interacting with accounts that you are interested in and relate to, that is all you will see on your 'for you page' aka fyp. Unlike Instagram and other popular apps used for marketing, TikTok is unique because it allows users to grow more quickly and in an organic way. For example, when I began posting, I knew that I would be sharing post relating to my business niche, which is clothing, natural dyeing etc. And when I posted my first natural dyeing tutorial with avocado pits, it blew up on there! I quickly gained hundreds of followers and views on my videos. This continued on until I had my own growing community there with similar interests. It was wonderful because as I posted more tutorials and natural dyeing tips, I also gained customers.

    I began sharing more of our home and garden, but because of the algorithm I started seeing an overlap that was hindering the flow of traffic to my small business. I asked my followers if I should start a new account and the concensus was that it would be a good idea. It was around the end of summer 2021,  that I split my account and made a personal one to share home + garden content. I have always loved sharing snippets of our home, garden, fashion and I was excited for that decision. I took a bit of a posting break on all of my social media accounts and began to take it more seriously towards the end of the year. That's when my videos began to gain hundreds of thousands of views and hundreds of follows. I started to notice a trend, however, when I hashtagged certain words and shared videos of our home on both my Instagram and Tiktok. Although our home was built in 1950 by a local thoracic surgeon, it was modeled after an 1800's colonial, down to the home library. It gives very much Nancy Myer's traditional home in the 90's and that is what made me fall in love with our home and the land surrounding it. It was absolutely stunning, and the materials used were such high quality that I couldn't believe the house was still on the market! 

    As a woman of color whose family comes from a very colonized country and anti-racist scholar, I am very aware of when race intersects different aspects of our lives. I was in a kind of disbelief, however, when I began seeing racist themes come up alongside my decor and home style. But here's a pro-tip, whenever you are in disbelief about an issue surrounding race, it is most likely a reflection of your privilege that is hindering you from seeing the reality of what is staring you in the face. I have economic privilege now and with that comes a wider variety of choice. And whether or not I wanted to admit it at the time, a lot of my choices come with a new set of historical + societal bias. It became very clear that these implicit biases were present in our 'traditional' home. I'm not even scratching the surface when it comes to spaces that are perceived as only for White folks versus BIPOC, and the classism that runs alongside these perceptions. There are so many layers here and there's no way that I'll be able to cover everything in one blog post, nor will I be able to unpack it all in this space. My goal, though, is for those of you who do follow and enjoy my content to understand that white supremacy permeates every aspect of our lives in this country. And in order to evolve and heal, we all need to do our part to not only acknowledge the problem, but work together to provide solutions moving forward. 

    I began noticing accounts with confederate and other racist figures as their profile pics after sharing videos and photos of only my home.  And no, these were not bots because I would check out their accounts before I blocked them! If you're wondering why I blocked them, then I suggest that you dig a little deeper into why that was your first reaction. No one that is doing the work to dismantle oppressive systems, especially BIPOC, want racist followers on their social media accounts. Most importantly, what was I doing that allowed for these overtly racist folks to feel at home enough in my online space to follow. I made a cheeky video using the sound "hmm, what's going on?" while I zoomed in and out to different spaces of our home and with the caption "Traditional home, not traditional values" in response to this on my Tiktok and it blew up again. 

I think what surprised me most were the responses. The vast majority understood exactly what I was sharing and the intersection of race + design. However, when I began reading the experiences of those who had also noticed this as a result of their design choices, it was then that I wondered why they were not talking about it too. I began reading comments of folks with certain dogs who also witnessed an overtly racist following. What?! It is incredibly important for all of us who are in privileged positions to speak out when we see this happening, because ultimately, we yield power in these spaces. It says so much about us, when we feel comfortable + safe enough to stay quiet when we know the harm that maintaining these folks in our spaces cause. I want to also acknowledge that as a woman of color I should not have to be the only one using my online spaces to call this out, but if I don't, I can't expect the White women decorating their homes like this to do so either. It truly is a kind of paradox, but at this point, it isn't something that I'm willing to ignore. 

    After responding to questions and comments on my TikTok's post, I asked two White women content creators with large followings that commented how they related under my video to share what they were doing to challenge these perceptions. Only one of them responded and then shared my post on her Instagram stories. I really appreciated her solidarity and willingness to challenge the status quo. However, we all need to understand that it has to be an ongoing kind of work. Systems of oppression are rooted in a power structure that is meant to keep a certain group of people at the top at the expense of those who are perceived as 'other'. What are you doing to support these systems continually?

    Following all of this, I decided to share a list of anti-racist books and books that I enjoy reading by BIPOC on both my IG and TikTok. The list was shared with me holding our books in our home library and under the title 'Classic Literature to Keep in every Traditional Home Library,' which are as follows: 

    The response on my Instagram after sharing the same post were racist swearing and telling me to take down the video lol You know I've hit a nerve when I'm challenging our perceptions of what is deemed classic + traditional. Who usually defines these terms in our society and why? Who do you imagine living in a home like ours? What crosses your mind when Black + Brown people are in positions of power and privilege? How many more books do you need to read in order to understand that all of these concepts translate into our real-life experiences?

    I have a lot more to add, and as I continue to receive questions from my community, I'll try to answer as best as I can from my perspective and/or point you in the direction of someone who can. I've also gained lots of new followers since this happened a little over a week ago now and I wanted to welcome you all. I appreciate you taking the time to follow along. I will continue to share my usual home, life and style content as well.  It's been really wonderful sharing that kind of creativity again!

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.


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