Nathan Z., better known as The Third Pew, has accused organizers of the upcoming PressPlay Tour of tokenism.

The highly influential YouTube vlogger set off a firestorm of discussion about diversity and inclusion on YouTuber/Vine tours with a single tweet, which included a picture of the tour’s lineup along with the caption “White Boys and Token Black Kid: The Tour.”

The Third Pew Vs. Press Play Tour

Click to Enlarge Image.

The majority of those who replied agreed with Nathan. An easy position to take, since that “Token Black Kid” tucked away in the bottom right-hand corner of their promotional poster actually has half a million followers and 172 million views on Vine – Far more than most of the other creators standing in a much more prominent place in the poster.

When pressed on the issue, the PressPlay Tour twitter account hit back at Nathan, tweeting: “We should be selecting the best talent regardless of race, religion or any other factor. It should 100% be about talent.” However, when Nathan pointed out there are countless talented women and people of color available to take part in an event like this they quickly deleted their tweet and decided to “focus on the positive” instead of addressing what has become a very real issue in every new media community.

Why are Women and People of Color underrepresented in Social Media Events?

The PressPlay Tour is just the latest in a long line of YouTube and Vine conventions/tours that have been accused of systematically excluding women and people of color from their events.

Earlier this year, VidCon hosted its first ever “Women on YouTube” panel. It was one of the most popular and informative panels at the event, but creators were left wondering why it took five years for the largest YouTube convention in the world to have the female experience properly represented. Hank Green answered, candidly admitting that he just never thought about organizing a panel focused on the issues women face on YouTube before.

Equally, it’s worth noting that most of the PressPlay Tour “headliners” are represented by the same manager, David Graham, who also happens to own the PressPlay Tour. Everyone on the tour is either represented by, or directly associated with someone represented by, Graham. It seems that small community just happens to consist almost entirely of white males.

The casual and coincidental exclusion of ethnic minorities and women at gatherings, tours, and conventions can and does happen. David Graham is simply doing his job and looking out for the best interests of his clients. Hank Green is not a woman on YouTube, so I don’t expect him to have an expert knowledge of the issues faced by that group every day.

When isolated, these occurances aren’t exactly the end of the world. But unfortunately they’re neither isolated or rare; and when taken together they effectively take the notions of white/male/cis privilege that exist in wider society and replicate them in the digital realm.

I don’t want to call any content creators out, because this is largely outside their control. But there are a handful of smaller YouTubers with certain attributes that are being repeatedly booked (at outrageously high cost) for these increasingly lucrative tours and conventions while female and ethnic minority YouTubers with much larger followings are sitting at home. You have to wonder why that is.

Events are regularly called out for their under-representation of minorities and women. However, much like PressPlay did, they tend to double down and try to stand behind a weak defense claiming they ‘don’t see color’ instead of taking simple steaps to address what is a very real issue that pervades our entire industry. As Nathan Z. said, there are many incredibly talented female and ethnic minority content creators out there. All organizers have to do is look…