YouTube Should Ban the N-Word for Brands' Sake

Or At Least Allow Partners to Do So on Their Own Channels

By Published on .

The YouTube Partner Program was started in 2007 as a way to reward its most popular video bloggers and encourage them to make even more video content.

The idea of the YouTube Partner Program, or what we refer to as YTP, is to match relevant ads with the video subject matter. It's a win-win-win for advertisers seeking space to place ads on YouTube pages; YouTube, which wants to make money from the content; and the YouTuber, like me, who makes the content.

Thanks to YouTube's now famous (and, one would guess, rich) news and politics editor, Steve Grove, I was invited to become a YouTube Partner the year it launched, which arguably makes me one of YouTube's first partners.

Being a YouTube Partner is great in every way, except one: the allowed, unblocked use of the n-word in the comments section on video pages. It's a problem YouTube must end, first, because I can't imagine any brand wanting to have its name associated with any channel video page that 's littered with such words in its comments section, and second, because it's just plain hurtful. I spend a lot of time banning commenters and removing comments containing that racial epithet, but it's like trying to stamp out an army of ants.

I've even toyed with the idea of starting a "YouTube N-word Hall of Shame" and making a video just to give light to YouTube account holders who use the word on my channel, thinking that would make them stop. Then I realized the idea might backfire, and lead to greater use of it, not less.

And before you go on about how blacks use the n-word, this is one black man who doesn't use it -- never has -- and doesn't want anyone else using it around him, regardless of color. And when it's used on my channel, it's not presented as a term of endearment, it's intended to insult and to harm me.

Look, I'm not complaining about being black, because from my perspective, you get to see how people really are. If you want to see if that so-called good-hearted person really is just that , observe how they treat someone like me. And yes, that goes for other African Americans, and all other "afro-somethings" in the world. While society has improved dramatically over my lifetime, it's now morphed into a culture war between racists and non-racists, and blacks who are self-hating vs. those who aren't, as well.

Society may seem to have progressed to an even greater extent than my last sentence would imply, in the online world, it's different. There's racism at every turn, from commenters and trolls to offensive blog posts and forums.

But YouTube should not be the place that reflects this problem, and especially not for its content producers. I fear that I may be unfairly penalized for something I can't easily control. Am I losing ad dollars because I can't bat off every n-word?

Yes, I make a fair income from the YTP, and Google AdSense automatically places ads, but I can't see the advertisers decision that may lead to an ad not being on my channel. And how do I know what the reason is ? From my cursory analysis, it's less about my appearance -- after all I'm a good-looking brother, I think -- than it is about the comments and the n-word.

That's a problem that 's unique to me as a black person, and at times, like when I discovered the use of the n-word up to 52 times each month, it frankly makes me cry. If I can avoid people who act like this in the real world, I should be able to do so on YouTube. I can't attract the best brands with this problem, even though they may understand it's beyond my control.

I have raised this issue with YouTube and other YouTube partners at partner meetups in the past, and the discussion went along the lines of "If you make money from the overall volume of comments, let them talk." But I'm tired of those comments popping up in my email box on a near-daily basis because they're hurtful.

There must be a better situation than this forced masochism.

YouTube commenters must understand that YouTube is a private company and my channel belongs to me. It's not a free-speech public forum, but a business -- at least for me. A business I can't run effectively if I can't control against undesirable words that could chase away advertisers. There's no example in modern history of an advertiser who was drawn to the use of the n-word, and scores of examples of advertisers running away from it.

YouTube itself would benefit from a ban on the use of the n-word because it would make the video-sharing site an even better place for marketers and for people of color, especially blacks like me -- one of the first YouTube Partners.

That's not too much to ask for.

Zennie Abraham is the executive producer of and chairman-CEO of
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