It’s Not White People’s Place To Forgive Jenna Marbles For Her Racist Past

The YouTuber’s decision to quit making content has caused a huge reaction online

Jenna Marbles

by Georgia Aspinall |

Jenna Marbles has quit YouTube after 10 years on the platform following calls for her to address racist videos she posted in 2011 and 2012. In a YouTube video titled ‘A Message’, Marble’s apologised and said she will be taking some time to just ‘live and just be’ in order to ensure her content doesn’t hurt or offend anyone in future.

‘I’m just going to move on from this channel for now,’ Marbles announced at the end of her apology video, titled ‘A Message’. ‘I don’t know how long that’s going to be I just want to make sure the things I put into the world aren’t hurting anyone and I’m just going to stop for now, or forever, I don’t know.’

Marbles apologised for donning blackface in 2011 in a video where she dressed up as Nicki Minaj, however stated that the dark tan she had in the video was a false tan she always wore – pointing to a part of the video where she is not imitating Minaj but skin is the same darkness. ‘I just want to tell you that it was not my intention to do blackface,’ she said. ‘But it doesn't matter, all that matters is that people were offended. It's shameful, it's awful. I wish it wasn't part of my past.’

She also apologised for another video that same year where she released a rap song featuring racist slurs against East-Asian people, then rapping ‘sorry that was racist I’m bad at rap songs.’

‘It’s awful, it doesn’t need to exist. It’s inexcusable and it’s not okay. I’m incredibly sorry if this offended you, then now, whenever, it shouldn’t of existed and I shouldn’t have said that ever,’ she said. A third video from 2012 also saw Marbles slut-shaming women who have sex with multiple partners, for which she said she had ‘a lot of internalised misogyny back then.’

Her apology, and choice to quit YouTube following it, has caused an intense reaction online. As one of the earliest creators on the platform and with over 20million subscribers, Marbles was considered well-loved and a positive example of growing and learning on the channel, something a number of her Black and Asian fans have pointed out in the wake of the video.

However, while it is their place to choose to forgive Marbles or not, there is further controversy around white fans joining in on the chorus of forgiveness despite the fact white people cannot ever understand the harm her racist videos did to her Black and Asian fans then and now. Without the lived experience of being Black or Asian, forgiveness is not theirs to give when Marbles has undoubtedly contributed to a culture of offensive comedy that propped up white supremacy.

‘Yeah white ppl it’s not your place to forgive Jenna Marbles,’ one Twitter user commented online. ‘Blackface and racist stereotypes do not affect you, but from my BLACK perspective that was honestly the most sincere apology I’ve heard from any YouTube person and she has really grown so much since then.’ Her tweet has since garnered near 100,00 likes and 10,000 shares.

Similar sentiments have since been shared online after a wave of white fans spoke out to support Marbles and used her decision to quit YouTube to prop up narratives that ‘cancel culture is toxic’.

Ultimately though, for white people, just as it’s not your place to forgive someone for offensive actions that don’t affect you, it’s also not your place to decide that cancelling someone for their racist past is or is not toxic. First of all, while cancel culture has undoubtedly impacted some public figures careers and wellbeing, in the main a trending hashtag or social media movement against a person – especially those who benefit from white privilege – does little to hold them accountable in real life.

Look at Logan Paul, Tana Mongeau, Jeffree Star and beyond - all YouTuber’s who’ve been the subject of cancel campaigns numerous times and are still thriving in their online careers with lucrative brand deals and mainsteam media collaborations. All of them have been at the centre of controversies surrounding racism and offensive content previously.

But more than that, social media is one of very few tools marginalised people have to hold people accountable for their offensive actions. It’s not a white persons place to say it’s toxic when without social media campaigns, racist people would not have been exposed or held accountable in any form previously.

Ultimately, while some Black and Asian fans are choosing to forgive Marbles, others may not and for a white person to blame them for their favourite YouTuber quitting the platform is not okay. Marbles quitting might seem extreme to those who have never experienced racism, but for many this is the first example of someone really holding themselves accountable for their actions. It’s not a hastily posted apology with a promise to learn and do better, only to post another video the next week on an entirely different topic, only to continue thriving months later and make another offensive mistake a year on.

This is a real action that many are grateful to see with so many disingenuous or thoughtless apologies from YouTubers in the past. You can be sad that Marbles will no longer be creating content, but when it comes to forgiving her or asking her to return to YouTube, that’s for the people she harmed to decide.

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