Art/Design, BIPOC Voices

TikToker Clare Brown is challenging European Art history

To educate people about microaggressions.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
May 10, 2022

Clare Brown, a rising TikToker, is flipping the script on microaggressions by using the platform to share satirical videos in which white people are treated as a minority. Ms. Brown is a TikTok creator that became known for her short comedic videos portraying microaggressions directed at white people, or “European Americans,” as she calls them. Examples include commenting on a girl’s “flat” hair, expressing discomfort with the word “white,” and calling the name Catherine “exotic,” among others.


During the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, Brown came up with the idea as a way to educate people about racial intolerance. She shared: “I noticed there were so many amazing Black creators talking about their experience, talking about their perspective […] I think that message fell flat to white people.” The reason her videos are successful is that they really have a funny tone rather than a preachy one.


Her videos are occasionally influenced by the experiences of her followers, she shared: “I did one about dance and how there’s this pressure, especially for Black dancers, to totally change their hair in order to perform, and that kind of came from a comment […] I was like, ‘Oh, I can relate to that. I can do something about that.'”


Ms. Brown created a fashion blog back in 2009 called Clarabelle. It was her finding fashion editorials and posting them. She then went on to grow an audience on Instagram and garner a bigger following.


Not only is she shedding light on microaggressions, but she’s also changing the way people think about European Art. Clare Brown refers to European artists as the “cultural other,” evoking the microaggressions that are frequently directed at non-White artists.


By creating these videos, she is rewriting the history of art. She plays a scholar describing Paul Delaroche’s 1833 artwork “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey” in her viral video “If White People were the Cultural Others: Art Edition.


“It’s impossible for us to know who did this painting, but we can tell just by looking at it that it’s of a tribal sacrifice, which were common in Europe at the time,” Brown narrates. She describes the picture with phrases like “primitive,” alluding to the term’s widespread use in descriptions of non-European art.


Brown decided to delve into the world of art history after creating several of these videos that then went viral.


In another one of her hilarious videos she narrates:  “I was surprised you all wanted to learn more about European art! Honestly, there isn’t much of it, and it’s a pretty niche topic, but I was able to find one painting.” Behind her is a painting by Currier & Ives depicting Patrick Henry giving his famous address at the Virginia assembly of 1775. “We know this painting depicts a gang of illegal immigrants and human traffickers,” Brown says.


Making these videos can help demonstrate to other people how common microaggressions are, in addition to helping her unpack and validate her own feelings.


In other news, TikTok launched TikTok Library, its new Video Creation tool.


Photo via Clare Brown