UPDATE Sunday June 27: Disturbing old footage of Shane Dawson sexualising a then 11-year-old Willow Smith has resurfaced on Twitter following the release of the YouTuber's apology video. Read the latest update here.
It’s been a big week in YouTuber world.
Early on, Shane Dawson announced he was leaving the beauty game, but not before spilling some serious tea about the James Charles/Tati Westbrook/Jeffree Star saga.
Fellow YouTube star, Jenna Marbles, announced she was quitting the platform altogether, after content resurfaced of her making a racist Asian joke and impersonating Nicki Minaj.
Enough to leave the internet reeling, right? Well, yes, but there's more. Today, Shane Dawson uploaded a 20-minute apology video in an attempt to get out ahead of the accusations he says he knows are coming, given his past racist behaviour online.
The video, titled “Taking Accountability”, was uploaded on Shane’s channel on Friday in the US. In it, he addressed his past racist behaviour, including – but far from limited to – his use of blackface in old video comedy sketches. He said that while these have long been deleted or hidden, he can't escape this past.
"I have done a lot of things in my past that I hate, that I wish I could make go away, that I tried to make go away by deleting videos, or un-tagging my Instagram, literally doing whatever I can to pretend those things didn't happen," Shane said. "Because yes, I apologized for a lot of them but I'm 31, almost 32. Those apologies suck. I don't know who that person is anymore."
“I’m going to start with all the racism I put onto the internet as an adult, not a child. I was at least 20 when I started YouTube, and I made the decision to play stereotypes of Black people, or Asian people, or Mexicans, or pretty much every race,” he said. ”I made that decision. I said, ‘Oh this is funny,’ and I put that on the internet.”
“Blackface was something that I did a lot,” Shane admitted. “There’s no excuse for it ... I’m sorry that I added to the normalization of blackface, or the normalization of saying the n-word. And my justification at the time for that was, ‘Oh, I was playing a character, and it was in comedy, and my Black friend was there, and that makes it okay.’ No, it’s not okay.”
Shane noted that, while this isn’t the first time he has apologised specifically for blackface, those previous apologies were motivated by “fear”. This time, he claimed, he wanted to “own up”.
While Shane said that he didn’t want to “make excuses”, the YouTuber cited his past trauma, the way his videos were edited (which he thinks framed his behaviour in an even worse light), and essentially trying to be funny, all as reasons for this racist content.
Shane also mentioned his recent comments about James Charles, saying he regrets claiming that the beauty YouTuber needs to eat "humble pie". "The part of the Twitter note that I regret more than anything in my entire life, was the part where I said that James deserve a slice of humble pie the size of the Empire State Building," he said. "I'm sorry, James ... First of all, nobody deserves what happened. The whole internet ganging up on somebody, nobody deserved that. Who am I that somebody needs to be humbled? Me? Who am I to say that? I have literally put so much hate onto the internet over my last 15 years."
The reckoning of white people in positions of power who have behaved in ways that undermine, discriminate against, and/or terrorise Black and other people of colour is well underway in the US, spanning from Man Repeller's Leandra Medine all the way to top dogs at the New York Times and Condé Nast. For someone like Shane – who's success lives or dies by his subscriber count – the ramifications are less clear. This isn’t Dawson's first apology video. With more than 23M subscribers on the platform and no talk of him 'quitting' the platform altogether, we’d wager that it won’t be his last.
You can watch Shane Dawson's full apology video just below:
Main Image Credit: YouTube