"I love my Blackness and yours..."
This daily affirmation from social activist, Deray McKesson rings in my ears everytime I have the funds to press the "checkout" button on the website of a black-owned business. I love the feeling of spending my money with my people to restructure the economic power of our community.
There's a great deal of truth in the idea that if one of us wins, we all win; the more opportunities that we thrive at, the more opportunities that will be presented for us to thrive at; it's simple arithmetic, right? You would think so. Still, in recent moments, supporting black owned business has been more of a strain than an empowering experience. Leaving me to wonder, "what the heck is wrong with my people??"
I remember the first time I was burned by a black entrepreneur like it was yesterday; it was my senior year of college and I was looking for someone to create my blog logo. As most interactions occur these days, I met the young woman over social media, complimented her work and we exchanged information. The process started off smooth; drafts were coming in on time and communication was flowing, that was until I submitted my deposit for the logo and homegirl fell off the face of the earth. Yep, straight off, without any warning. What was I to think? This girl just robbed me, leaving me with nothing but a crappy logo. The experience left the worst taste in my mouth, still, I've been determined to put my money where my melanin is.
Fast forward to today, and it seems as if this trend continues.
On Monday, Shea Moistures released a new ad promoting "Hair Hate" which featured a white woman with a blonde tapered cut, red-headed twins, an Indian woman with long flowing waves, and of course, the token 3a naturalista. In the mix, there was one dark skin black woman with a kinkier texture but that's as far as that went. This ad left naturals everywhere with their twistouts spinning as they searched for a reason to feature white women in the conversation about "Hair Hate," as if they could ever relate to our struggles with texture wars, hair bias, and anti-blackness. As one twitter users put so perfectly, Shea Moistures "erased WOC from the space" that they created for us, the space that has leveraged the brand to the forefront of a billion dollar industry that we've established. Which leaves me to wonder just how bad do they need these white women's coins...?
There's nothing wrong with black-owned businesses wanting to grow and branch out their product lines to reach a wider consumer base. The issue is when Black folks put their money, influence, and social currency down to support the brands that are supposed to represent them, only to be removed from the conversation slowly and entirely. I truly believe that Black folks want to support their people, but it hurts when we actually do and our backing still isn't good enough.
But let's be clear here, Shea Moistures has BEEN trying to break away from the "ethnic" hair care category. Remember in 2015 when the brand sold a minority stake to Bain Capital, an equity firm with ties to 2012 Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. Or maybe you'll recall back in early 2016 when the brand launched its #BreakTheWalls campaign, seeking to "break down walls" that segregate "beauty" aisles from the ethnic hair care corners that our products have been stuffed into, thus placing Shea Moistures at the forefront of this hair texture-blind movement.
Supporting black-owned businesses sucks sometimes. Service can be subpar, disorganized and overpriced, or still have a "slave mentality" to work through. Although Shea Moisture still holds majority control and the day-to-day executive operations of their company, I'd like to see just how far the brand goes with the withering support of the almighty Black dollar.
Black-AF brands like BET, Essence, Rocawear, and Phat Fashion have all "sold out" to some extent to non-Black conglomerates and well, we've all seen them struggle to maintain or completely loose the support of their audiences with the white hand of control in the kool-aid.
It's completely up to you whether you continue to support Shea Moistures, but it's unfortunate that so many WOC will leave the brand in the sunken place that it's dug itself into.
Before you go: Let me know your thought on the Shea Moistures debacle in the comments below. Will you still support? Is this an opportunity to support other Black-owned hair care lines? Sound off in the comments below, I’d love to hear!
Peace, peace, peace,