Stop Stealing From Black Women!

If you want the benefits of our intellectual labor, pay us!

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Photo by Clarke Sanders on Unsplash

This piece is my reaction to discovering one of my Medium stories was reproduced in its entirety without my permission on the website www.citywatchla.com.

The story begins with an email, a Google news alert to be exact. Last summer, I made the pledge to write about Colin Kaepernick every Monday for six weeks or so, because I didn’t like the way he, his protest, or his case against the NFL were being discussed. Even his ardent supporters often incorporate right-wing, defeatist framing while arguing on his behalf, and I wanted to provide a different perspective. In preparation, I set up a Google news alert for Kaepernick’s name. The email listing the day’s articles about him usually comes in a little after 5:00 p.m. I don’t write about Kaepernick as regularly anymore, but I still check the news alert every day in case something interesting pops up. Yesterday evening, I opened the email and saw the headline to one of my Medium articles. At first, I thought Google had started including Medium stories, but upon closer examination, I saw that the piece was attributed to City Watch, a site I’d never heard of. I clicked the link and saw my entire article reproduced word for word.

This is my piece:

Here are screenshots of what CityWatch published:

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It’s a straight copy-and-paste. At the end, they even copied the line about me being a “Medium member since October 2018.” (*face palm gif*) I suppose they thought I’d be grateful they at least kept my name on my work for “exposure” or some such nonsense they think justifies them not asking my permission and stealing my intellectual property.

Some of my sports-related pieces on Medium have been shared through Yahoo! Sports, but always with an excerpt (roughly a paragraph) and a link back to Medium. I emailed Medium to double-check they didn’t have a similar arrangement with CityWatch, and they confirmed that CityWatch was acting without their knowledge. So, I sat there staring at my stolen work and wondering at the brazenness of the theft. And the laziness. What is it like to be that subpar, that below average, that sleazy that you have scour the web for people to steal from to make a living? They have a whole marketing spiel for why people should advertise on their shitty little website that traffics in stolen content. This is the line that got me the most: “CityWatch is published to encourage grassroots civic engagement through information, ideas, and perspectives.” Grassroots civic engagement involves stealing from Black women?

There is an absolute epidemic of mediocre people setting up camp in Black women’s social media, on our blogs and YouTube channels — pretty much anywhere we create content — and waiting for us to lay golden eggs for them to pilfer. That’s because we’re ahead of the curve, and they can’t keep up. We’re better, because we have to be. The solve to the problem of how much they lag behind is just to hire and pay us, but for some reason that’s never on the table. Instead they post up where we produce content, spy, and pay whatever second-rate team they’ve put together (who never have the range) to butcher our ideas or just copy and paste them. There are whole publishing companies basically being run off content stolen from Black Twitter. And let’s be honest, how many marketing departments would grind to a halt then collapse into complete and utter chaos if Black Twitter took an extended vacation? Blackness, Black thought, and Black ideas are commodities, but they only seem to be valuable when the people selling them aren’t Black. I know it’s been said before, but it bears repeating:

STOP STEALING FROM US!

PAY US!

This isn’t the first time I’ve been plagiarized. Last year, I wrote about Childish Gambino’s This is America. The piece went viral, and a reader DM’d me on Twitter to let me know that someone writing for a major newspaper in Poland heavily plagiarized my work. The tipster never got back to me when I tried to follow up, and I don’t speak Polish, so my complaint has languished.

Here’s my piece:

Here’s the evidence the tipster sent me (the highlights are the plagiarized portions):

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On the off chance that someone reading this speaks Polish and recognizes the paper, could you please do me and Polish readers a solid and contact the editor to let them know they’ve got a scamming plagiarist on the payroll. Thanks!

If I had to guess, these aren’t the only two times my work has been lifted. If I hadn’t set up that Google alert, I would have never caught the Kaepernick piece. If some random person who reads both Polish newspapers and hip hop writing on Medium hadn’t read my piece and the plagiarized article and taken the time to DM me, I would have missed that too. I’ve sort of prepared myself mentally for this moment, and I’ve sent the DMCA takedown notices, but I’m heated as fuck about all this. I think because of some of the news I’ve been consuming and discussing recently. I wrote about the college admissions scam and the myth of meritocracy last week. Then I learned that New York City’s most selective public high school admitted only seven Black students this year, and it reinforced my concerns. Every day, all over the world, Black people are denigrated and told we aren’t good enough, that we’re not meeting arbitrary standards that are designed to protect Whiteness and proximity to it. Even so, our nations, our communities, our cultures, and our intellectual property (which aren’t supposed to be worth anything) continue to be pillaged. It’s a scam, and we see through it.

Please share this piece. It’s not enough for us to send the DMCA takedown notices. We have to name and shame these thieves and get word out to people not to work with them.

Support my writing

I produce high-quality work that deserves to be compensated fairly. The best ways to support me are to (1) become a Medium member, read and clap for my articles, and (2) become one of my patrons.

If you’re an editor, and this crosses your desk, you should hire me to write things.

Most of my work is at the intersection of culture, race, and politics. Here are a few examples.

If I have a “classic” it’s my piece on hip hop and the failure of capitalism:

I recently wrote about wrestling with Michael Jackson’s legacy in the wake of Leaving Neverland.

I also roused some rabble with my piece on White Feminism™.

I can do the research thing too. As I mentioned at the top, I write a lot about Colin Kaepernick. Remember when Electronic Arts scrubbed his name out of songs on the Madden soundtracks? Well, it was much deeper than that. EA potentially used six separate methods to suppress Kaepernick’s presence over three versions of the game (Madden 17–19).

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*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: books2read.com/u/mBOYNv | IG: kitanyaharrison

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