‘Boyfriend Haul’ TikTok Trend Under Fire for Comparison to ‘Slave Auctions’

webnexttech | 'Boyfriend Haul' TikTok Trend Under Fire for Comparison to 'Slave Auctions'

TikTok, the social media giant that reportedly saw 1 billion monthly users in 2021, is known for incubating and popularizing fast-burning online trends.From the classic music and dancing fads to those with more real-world consequences, TikTok is no stranger to a break-neck content cycle or the controversy that can come with it.Cue the “Boyfriend Haul” or “Husband Haul,” a trend that started gaining traction in early July.
In these videos, creators “show off” their significant others, speaking to the camera as if they are reviewing a product after a shopping trip or “haul” and touching on their partner’s “features” and “specs.”The idea quickly proved popular as hundreds of videos appeared under matching hashtags #boyfriendhaul and #husbandhaul, racking up 26.2 million and 10.2 million views, respectively.
While some see the trend as a lighthearted excuse to poke fun at their other half, questions have risen about the supposed innocence of the message, with comment sections arguing that some videos are rife with racist overtones.The TrendIn one “haul” video with 2.3 million views, a woman “reviews” her husband like a new iPhone, smiling as she says she “got the upgrade” to boyfriend and then husband after “getting” him “with some wear and tear.” Another creator showed off her boyfriend, clad in a full squirrel costume, to 1.5 million viewers, joking that he comes with “many fun features,” but noting “you can’t exchange anything on this, he comes as is.””This one is also athletic so it has really cool features,” one influencer said while twirling her boyfriend for an audience of 1.7 million, “[I]t’s not so good at cooking so if you’re looking for that, I would get a different model.”The format has been duplicated hundreds of times, with view counts ranging from hundreds to millions for participants across the platform.
The clips garnering the most attention, however, are those that have raised some eyebrows.The ControversyTikToker @zaraarije, identified as Zareefa Arije by her publicist, was one of the first to receive major backlash for her version of the “boyfriend haul,” leading her to later delete the video and post a public apology.”I’m so disappointed in myself for not being educated enough on slave trading and slave auctions and slave breeding,” she said in the four-and-a-half-minute clip.
“It was never, never my intention to make fun of or make that situation so lighthearted…
.”The internet being forever, however, did not allow the original video to slip into obscurity, as others saved and eventually reposted the deleted content.The now infamous clip, shared by @sunshinelively, a TikToker who works under the penman Sunshine Lively, starts with Arije introducing her shirtless boyfriend to the camera.”I know a lot of you have been asking about a boyfriend haul,” she began, pulling her boyfriend on screen by his arm, “and here is [my] boyfriend haul.” She joked about “returning him once,” while he stands behind her with a silent, if not confused, smile.”I like to go for, like, a chocolate on chocolate, so black on black,” Arije said, to which her boyfriend can be seen furrowing his brow.”Purebred, this is a purebred,” she said, explaining again that they’re “giving [the audience] a haul” when the man mumbles a question in response.
“So this is purebred Nigerian from the motherland, I don’t like to crossbreed.
We got the full Nigerian here,” she said as her boyfriend brings a palm to his forehead.She went on to say that “good things” about “this model” include his ability to cook and clean, though she later redacts the former.”I do everything else,” he retorted before the video cuts to a picture of a slave auction block inserted by Lively.
The image depicts a nearly 180-year-old block that was moved from the streets of Fredericksburg, Virginia to a local museum in June 2020.
The artifact’s inscription identifies it as “Fredericksburg’s Principal Auction Site in Pre-Civil War Days for Slaves and Property.””Sounds familiar,” reads Lively’s caption, accompanied by hashtags including #slavery, #americanhistory, #bipoc and #blacktiktok.”When I saw that video, it was extremely triggering and it was very alarming and harmful,” Lively told Newsweek.
“The language that she used in that video was language directly tied to the slave trade and slave auctions.
She said things like ‘purebred,’ ‘no crossbreeding,’ ‘directly from Nigeria,’ these are all very-slave focused types of verbiage she was using.”Hundreds of viewers took to the video’s comment section, one pointing out: “And he is just standing there smiling…I’m triggered.””Auctioning, it sounds like Auctioning I told some other creators about this and they knew what I was [talking about],” said another.
One noted that it was the creator’s use of the word “it” to refer to a person that “really sent chills down my spine,” while another asked how Arije “didn’t see anything wrong with this”Some, however, defended the TikToker, with multiple commenters saying it “isn’t anyone’s business” and pointing out that the trend was meant to be a “joke.””This ain’t none of my business.
[T]his is what he wanted,” read one comment, while another insisted “it’s a trend y’all.
Please.””Girl I’m afraid this just ain’t our battle” and “this ain’t our business,” read others.
“It’s a joke calm down,” said a third.In a statement provided to Newsweek, Arije said again that she meant no harm in what she posted.”My husband and I have been together since we were 14 years old, and have been creating content online for almost four years helping other couples in interracial relationships conquer one of the most significant troubles they face in their lives—coming to your family about your relationship and even harder finding that familial support,” the statement said.
“Our platform has always been about helping others not feel so alone and giving them the love and support they didn’t have in their own home.”Addressing the boyfriend haul video specifically, she said: “Hindsight is 20/20—I’ve learned from what I posted and how incredibly insensitive it was.
I have been and will continue doing my research to better myself and my community.
“Arije is far from the only creator who’s been accused of racism thanks to the trend, however, with critics pointing to another viral TikTok, this one posted by @haiandcrew, as an example of problematic behavior.TikToker @haiandcrew, identified simply as “Hailey” in her profile, started her own version of the “haul” in a similar way, pulling her shirtless boyfriend into frame and introducing him as “the one she has.”She explained that they met in 2014 when he was “not on the market,” but he “became available” in 2016, during which time she decided to “see if it was a good investment for me.””However, the timing wasn’t really right, so it wasn’t until the beginning of 2018 that I purchased this one,” she continued, putting a hand on his shoulder.She went on to say that her “model” can “do and fix anything” and joked about his slowness to “upgrade to fiance mode” before the clip ends with a kiss between the two.Though the video, posted August 4, remains live, the comments section appeared overwhelmingly less than impressed with the display.”Purchased,” read one comment liked 24.8k times, accompanied by a shocked emoji.
“Worse thing about this is he is standing there letting her do this!!!” read another, liked 17.6k times.Multiple comments pointed out Hailey’s choice of language when referring to her Black partner, taking issue with words like “on the market,” “investment,” “model” and “purchase.””He was on the market…like….1787,” one commenter wrote.
“You lost me at purchased,” said a second, while another compared the TikTok to the movie Get Out.”Was this your dream Dr King????” one poster asked, receiving 13.8k likes in response.Though the couple touts more than 300,000 followers and 17 million likes under the @haiandcrew handle, neither has appeared to address the controversy since the video went viral, though their TikTok profile was set to “private” shortly after Newsweek reached out for comment.Newsweek reached out to @haiandcrew for comment.Creators Speak OutDistaste for the trend extended well beyond comment sections, however, as videos analyzing, decrying and even parodying some of the most controversial “hauls” have gained viral attention.TikToker @iskra, a model and influencer identified as Iskra Lawrence, posted her own callout of the fad, labeling it the “anti-racist edition.” In the TikTok, viewed more than 1 million times, she appears cheerfully on camera, imitating the common introduction of announcing her “boyfriend haul” before inviting her partner, Philip Payne (@philipapayne,) on screen.”I got this—” she begins, before frowning and dropping her sunny demeanor, “idea to tell you that you need to do your research.” She and her husband lean closer to the camera, now sporting serious looks.”And if you’re dating a Black man, it is your responsibility to understand the history and the trauma of slavery,” she finished before Payne grabbed the camera and said, “and you as a Black man, what you—” as the clip cuts off.In a follow-up, Payne took front and center: “It’s your responsibility as a Black man to make sure that your white partner understands the history of slavery and auctioning.”He went on to say that people can “love who they wanna love,” but reminded viewers that “50 years ago, they could ban interracial marriage.””So please,” he continued, “not only have respect for yourself, but have respect for the people who fought and died for you to have the privilege…
.” before cutting off again.Though the video has since gone viral, the pair said they filmed it following only about five minutes of conversation after seeing some “upsetting” versions of the trend online.”It was immediate, it was not planned, we didn’t make a script,” Lawrence told Newsweek, “it was just a reaction video to those videos.”The couple said they avoided naming names, tagging other creators or “coming for anybody,” instead choosing to focus on, hopefully, educating people on the app.”It inspired me in a way to be like ‘I need to share a different perspective just so it can strike some awareness because I don’t think these couples are aware of or empathetic of how this may be affecting other people in a negative way,'” Payne said.Commenters responded to the videos favorably, with a top comment liked over 17,000 times simply reading “TELL THEM.””Omg!!!
Finally,” read another, as a fellow viewer lamented: “It’s tiring to HAVE to teach all the time but that’s the sacrifice you take while dating outside your race.
Awesome topic!””[T]hank you because the stuff I’ve seen ON THIS APP,” one commenter said, to which Lawrence responded “and people are still posting them” accompanied by a broken heart and facepalm emoji.Though Lawrence said she “didn’t know if [the video] was perfect” in her own comment under the post, both she and Payne said they felt it a “necessity” to give another perspective.”Especially if you’re a parent, especially if your partner is Black or a different race to you, just taking some time to get to know the sensitives of their culture, of their experience, of their race, is just the bare minimum,” Lawrence said.”I also understand it’s a joke, it’s TikTok, I do understand that ‘hey, everyone is doing the trend, jokey jokey,’ I understand that,” added Payne.
“However, when you look at, you know, the words that were used in some of the trends, you have to be careful…you can make jokes and be respectful and be aware.”Other posters responded to the clips with their own, many praising the pair for their bait-and-switch technique—though some questioned the value of the message.TikToker @amalaunapologetic, identified in her profile as Prager-U personality Amala Ekpunobi, told viewers in a video seen more than 22,000 times “not to listen to these people” in a response to Lawrence’s viral clip.”If you are a white girl dating a Black guy and you wanna do the little boyfriend haul trend people are doing on TikTok, go ahead and do it,” she said, contending that people who have compared the popular videos to slavery “are the problem,” as opposed to the people posting them.”It’s like people have to inject race and racism into literally every single thing,” Ekpunobi continued, “even a TikTok trend where a white girl would be celebrating her interracial relationship.
Let that sink in.”While some in the comments section seemed wary of the argument, many others agreed, praising Ekpunobi for “saying what needed to be said” and calling out “hypocrisy.”Other creators made their own videos on the subject, like the repost of @haiandcrew’s original clip by @xiandivyne, who points out multiple moments that he said: “sounded like a slave auction.” Another, posted by @gabbana.nova, included a caption saying “Hailey’s ancestors are like good pick lil lady.””Me watching white girls do the boyfriend haul trend with Black men,” read text overlayed on a video by @sarahesi17, paired with a disappointed image of her face and a caption contesting the trend is giving off “auction” vibes.Some, like user @notwildin, took a more humorous approach, staging a parody of the most infamous posts to come out of the trend.”POV: white girl is doing the boyfriend haul trend,” read in-video text, paired with the caption: “First time I saw this trend I knew it was going south.” He pantomimed a scene where he is the Black boyfriend or husband in question, and his “white girlfriend,” voiced by himself, narrates offscreen.
He referenced some terms used in @zaraarije’s original video, using the word “purebred” to refer to himself before the scene escalates into the “girlfriend” character calling him “strong and stocky,” telling him to “not talk back,” demanding he “show his teeth” and saying she “knew she had to have him” when she first saw him.”That one video that went viral was exactly this,” said a comment, while a second asserted, “I am on the right side of TikTok that I don’t know this trend.”Other creators, like Sunshine Lively, led the conversation in a different way.
Using her platform, described as focusing on anti-racism, Black history, decolonization and Black empowerment, she brought the attention of her 164.5k followers to a number of videos.”The entire trend is just harmful.
What’s the point of it?” she told Newsweek.
“If the point of the trend is to dehumanize, it’s harmful, you know?
Throw it away.””Very specifically, the ones I pointed out were just over-the-top egregious,” she continued.Newsweek reached out to @amanluanapologetic and @notwildin for comment.Historical ContextThe slave auctions mentioned in many of the critical comments described first-hand in historical documents as “the traffic in human flesh,” involved the purchasing and selling of enslaved African people in pre-civil war America, according to the National Humanities Center.
The largest and perhaps most recognized auction in recorded history, known as the Great Slave Auction or the Weeping Time, took place on March 2 and 3, 1859 outside of Savannah, Georgia.
Over the course of two days, roughly 429 men, women, children and even infants were sold off to plantation owners and other bidders, reaping over $300,000 in profit for indebted planter Pierce Mease Butler.The enslaved individuals were subjected to horrific conditions and “humiliating” examinations, including fingers in their mouths to check their teeth, full-body inspections for injuries, muscle mass, disability and overall “condition,” and, ultimately, the fracturing of many families.
Language surrounding the”breeding” and “quality” of enslaved people, paired with the close examination of their bodies and physical attributes, were recorded as part of these auctions.The TikTok trend, which is centered around “reviewing” your partner in a fashion akin to a product or purchase, is too reminiscent to some of a practice that is only roughly 160 years in America’s past.”I just want people to take the time out to learn,” TikToker Sunshine Lively said on the matter.”I understand that people can feel triggered and they feel like people are just attacking them when they talk about these subjects, but the point is never to attack, it’s to shed light on things…that you may honestly not know.”She continued: “Letting people know that, hey, these aren’t things to joke about, these are real things that our people did go through and we are still struggling to move past it today, so it’s not a laughing matter.”TikTok and Black CreatorsThough the app’s latest controversy includes content creators and not the platform itself, the conversation is set against a backdrop of existing tension between TikTok and its Black creator community.TikTok, which calls itself a channel for “Real People, Real Videos,” has been repeatedly accused of racial bias in how it censors and moderates content.
Black creators have pointed out alleged issues with the app’s algorithm and infamously strict yet inconsistent AI moderation system, resulting in research that explored the existence of an algorithmic bias.Following ongoing complaints and major backlash surrounding the app’s handling of Black Lives Matter content, TikTok released a statement in June 2020 addressed to “our Black community.” Though the statement apologized for the shortcomings and promised initiatives for improvement, the app continues to field regular claims that not much has changed.Newsweek reached out to TikTok for comment.Other Viral TikToksWhether controversies or crazes, TikTok is often the topic of online conversation.
Earlier this week, experts warned about another viral TikTok trend that could cause “serious health risks” for those who try it out.
Another TikTok-born trend, this one including a supposed rash of zombies, also took the internet by storm recently, as people across platforms fretted over a supposed outbreak of the brain-eating undead in China, though the rumor proved false.Thankfully, the app is also home to many harmless fads, like the “Teenage Dirtbag” challenge that has drawn the attention of celebs like Paris Hilton, Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas.

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