Even in the context of YouTube – a platform with a very serious diversity problem – Team 10’s racial make-up is noticeably one-note. Since I first stumbled upon Jake Paul and the rest of the social media squad’s antics online, I’ve been trying to work out why that is. Surely a 21st century social media collective set on world-domination would want to be able to market to as many demographics as possible? Then it dawned on me. Team 10 could not be Team 10 if Jake Paul and the rest of the gang were black.
White privilege is the petrol that powers Team 10’s engine.
Everything about Team 10, and Jake himself, is dripping in white privilege. From the fact that Jake Paul has become a successful social media personality without a definable talent (how often do vloggers of colour reach the same success level?), to his reliance on being seen as a “just a kid” (despite being 20) when his pranks go too far, the Team 10 leader has made use of all the benefits that whiteness brings.
So what would go down if Jake Paul was black?
Presuming a group of young black adults could pick up the sort of audience needed to establish a social media squad that tech investors like Gary Vaynerchuck – who is involved with the likes of Uber, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter – would invest in (spoiler alert – they probably couldn’t), history has taught us that this hypothetical black social media star would be up against a society that treats people like them unfairly.
It’s common knowledge that in America, black offenders receive harsher punishments than their white counterparts, even when the crime is the same. But this discrimination isn’t just present in the justice system. Even at school, teachers are more likely to punish black students than white ones. Meanwhile, the media tends to treat white people more kindly than black people when they make headlines; American newspapers have repeatedly been criticised for using mugshots of black victims of crimes while using family photos of white criminals. Below is just one example:
When it comes to Jake’s more serious pranks – such as causing a fire in his back garden that reportedly affected an elderly neighbour – there’s a lot to suggest that Jake’s experiences would be far more serious if he was pranking while black. For starters, he would be at a higher risk of having the police called on him. Given everything we know about police encounters with black people in America, that has the potential to be a far graver situation than anything the real Jake Paul would have to contend with. Even the safety of being in your own home doesn’t always protect black people; just take the case of Charleena Lyon, a black woman shot dead by police in her own home after reporting a burglary.
But even if the police weren’t called on hypothetical black Jake Paul, the media frenzy surrounding him would likely be far more severe than what the real Jake faced when he the media were alerted to his antics. When you consider the findings of ““Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies,” which found that in some cases newsworthiness “is not a product of how representative or novel a crime is, but rather how well it can be ‘scripted using stereotypes grounded in White racism and White fear of Black crime’,” you can imagine how much further a story about an internet-famous black man terrorising his predominately wealthy, white neighbourhood would travel; and how severe that coverage would be. Yes, the real Jake gained negative publicity for his actions; but everything about the way America is set up suggests that a black Jake Paul would receive more.
Like everything in America, Jake Paul’s career is completely influenced by his race.
From his ability to build such a huge audience to the reactions to his pranks, Jake’s career path has been made all the more easy by his race. Had he been black, we probably wouldn’t have ever seen him build a large enough platform to generate much media attention in the first place. But if by some stroke of luck he did, our hypothetical Jake Paul would have suffered a much bigger fall from grace by now.
None of this makes Jake Paul any better or worse than he is. Nobody can help being privileged, whether it’s through race, gender, sexuality or class. But as America’s racial divides become more and more visible, it’s always worth considering how race influences everything from schools and crime to social media stars.