Thanks, Shea Moisture. In light of your recent marketing snafu, I realized that like you, I was a fraud. You initially marketed your products primarily to Black women, but under the control of white ownership and executives, your advertising campaign excluded women like me in favor of “expanding your brand” to white women. Maybe I was naive to expect anything different. Maybe I was even worse than Shea Moisture because I knew I wanted to prioritize Black women and I never did. I shied away from mentioning race too often in my blog posts because I didn’t want to be viewed as exclusionary. I didn’t want to lose followers. I wanted crossover appeal. Even though there are over 23.5 million Black women in the United States, I was advised that targeting Black women would “limit my appeal.” And I listened.
In my attempt to be more appealing, I made the same mistake that Shea Moisture did. I accepted the theory that successful businesses must cater to the majority, and not the minority. Some entrepreneurs have even hidden the fact that their companies are Black owned out of fear of losing customers. I am a partner in a small health care survey company, and I must admit that we deliberately omitted our pictures from our website because of this same fear.
I was taught to value image that others perceived of me. What I have realized since, however, is that being concerned with perception and image is inherently defining yourself through the eyes of someone else. You aren’t worried about what feels right in your soul, but instead how someone else is going to respond. You aren’t listening to your gut, but instead trying to predict someone else’s. The second your business, your art, or your decisions are based in other people’s opinions, you have lost. Which is more valuable to you, popularity or authenticity? When you are comfortable in your skin, that is what attracts others.
So here I am, a Black girl who is committed to helping other Black girls live happy, healthy, and free lives. I am committed to supporting other Black entrepreneurs. I am committed to holding and creating space for Black self-love and self-care. And if I say that it is what I am committed to, then my actions should match.
Several years ago, I read Maggie Anderson’s book Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy. Although I was inspired by the Anderson’s exclusive allegiance to Black businesses, I was discouraged by the difficulty in fulfilling this commitment. Nearly four years after reading this book, I am finally committing to spending as many of my dollars as possible with Black-owned small businesses. Within my short time in D.C., I have encountered some amazing Black-owned places. Here are some of my favorite spots so far:
- Juice Bar – Turning Natural
- Spa and Waxing – Skin Beauty Bar
- Bank – Industrial Bank
- Dentist – DC Dentist
- Yoga Studio – Khepera Wellness Yoga Studio and Embrace Yoga DC
- Online Market Place – We Buy Black
- Community Shared Agriculture - Three Part Harmony Farm CSA
- Dry Cleaners - Deane Avenue Cleaners - (202) 396-8300
- Landscape Design - Green Forever
- Laundry Detergent - True Products
- Nail Salon - Sassy Nail Spa
- Dog Groomer - Poochies, Kitties, and Kisses
Here are some other places I haven’t gotten a chance to explore much yet, but I look forward to doing so soon:
Although this is a clear economic choice, it is also a psychological choice of self-love. I am subverting the prevailing idea that Black-owned products are inferior just because of their Blackness. I am making this choice at the risk of being called militant, exclusionary, or even “reverse-racist.” Learning to truly accept myself and to be comfortable in my Black skin requires me to reject the ideology of Black inferiority. I won’t continue to make the same mistake that Shea Moisture did. I know that Black women are enough. I know that I am enough.
SN: Sooooo, now I need some new hair care products. If you have any black-owned beauty products that you know of, please leave a note in the comments. Thanks!