MrBeast booted a user whose name he couldn't pronounce on Clubhouse, sparking a debate over racism and microaggressions
- Popular YouTuber MrBeast hosted a Clubhouse room on Sunday.
- During his discussion, MrBeast booted a speaker whose name he said he couldn't pronounce.
- The speaker, entrepreneur Farokh Sarmad, sparked fierce debate after he called the move racist.
An appearance from one of the biggest and most well-liked YouTubers on Clubhouse, the buzzy exclusive audio app, ended with a fierce debate over whether a speaker being booted from the room was racist.
MrBeast, who has more than 53 million subscribers, is known for giving millions of dollars away on his platform. In one of his early appearances on the invite-only app Clubhouse, MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, gave $10,000 to a listener.
On Sunday, Donaldson was hosting a Clubhouse panel with more than 1,400 listeners. He invited audience members "onstage" - moving them from listening only capabilities to having speaking capabilities - if they changed their profile pictures to selfies or photos of themselves with famous entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
One of the people invited to speak was Farokh Sarmad, a popular Clubhouse host with more than 56,000 followers on the app who also owns a network of Instagram pages with more than 13 million combined followers. Sarmad told Insider that he was present "onstage" with two other speakers, one named Colin who joined the stage after Sarmad and was given the opportunity to speak to Donaldson before Sarmad.
Sarmad says he was passed over for speaking opportunities entirely. Then, Donaldson verbally said he'd be clearing the stage to invite different people up. He told Colin by name that he'd be removing him, then said he was "really bad with names" before removing Sarmad, according to a recording that was posted on Twitter.
—Farokh Sarmad (@farokhgoodlife) February 15, 2021
Sarmad, who felt like the interaction was both a breach of Clubhouse etiquette and influenced by Donaldson's inability to pronounce his name, tweeted that he had experienced "blatant racism." That's when an internet mob, spurred on by YouTube's commentary community, turned on Sarmad.
The entrepreneur MrBeast kicked off said he was harassed by the YouTuber's fans for speaking out
Fans of Donaldson were quick to attack Sarmad's thread. A recording of the interaction taken by a listener began circulating that Donaldson's fans used to claim Sarmad had "falsely accused" Donaldson, while another panelist replied to Sarmad's tweet to say they were making room on the panel to invite more women to the stage.
—Rene Ritchie (@reneritchie) February 15, 2021
Sarmad told Insider that the screen recording didn't include the context of him being passed over from being able to speak - twice, he says - while other names who joined after Sarmad were called on to ask questions.
"From an outsider's perspective if you see the video, you see my tweets, you think I'm crazy," Sarmad said. "I did this because I've suffered from this before, given that my name is Farokh. It's happened to me in Paris where I was raised. It's happened to me here in Canada as well as in the United States."
Sarmad continued to defend himself and the principle of inclusion, creating another Clubhouse panel to discussion "Racism on Clubhouse: what's the solution?" But his efforts were overshadowed by YouTubers with bigger Twitter platforms who are fans of Donaldson, including Daniel Keem - better known as Keemstar - who created a competing Clubhouse room called "Mr Beast gets falsely accused of racism."
In the room, Sarmad said Keem called him a "clout chaser." Toward the end of the room, Keem said "I don't care about his feelings [...] F--- him, f--- all the people that defended him."
"My intentions were never to cancel, as I do not believe in cancel culture and I'm not a fan of it," Sarmad said. "My intentions were not malicious, nor were they to get any traffic. I already have my own audience, I already have my business, and I don't need harassment."
—LegalEagle (@LegalEagleDJ) February 15, 2021
While some of the responses to the incident were neutral, Sarmad said he received an overwhelming amount of harassment from fans of Donaldson and Keem.
"I don't even know how many messages I received of hate, whether on Instagram or Twitter," Sarmad said. "People told me to kill myself."
In direct messages with Insider, Keem stood by his characterization of Sarmad's thread as a false claim against Donaldson. "This is the internet if you get caught in 4K Ultra HD spreading lies you will get massive hate," Keem said. "Does that make it right or ok? No. But all people online know this would be the outcome of a situation like this. Regardless, this situation started a healthy conversation and many learned from this situation to better understand each other."
Sarmad also said he stands by his initial thread, despite the reaction he got on Twitter. On Clubhouse, he said, he's able to have "healthy, safe" conversations without being harassed, including a room he hosted before Sunday night that he says Donaldson joined and was given the opportunity to speak during.
Sarmad says he would have been satisfied in the situation if Donaldson asked him how to pronounce his name and gave him the equal opportunity afforded to white participants to speak. Donaldson didn't respond to Insider's request for comment.
"To be kicked off because of my name is not right. And to not be given a chance to speak when other people who came on after me were given speaking time," Sarmad said. "It was a very hard day for me."
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