So this Shea Moisture cluster fuck has my mind racing, even more so than usual because my mind is always racing. It’s maddening and tiring. Watching that fiasco unfold made me think of a recent post from the littiest blog on the innanets, Kinfolk Kollective(KK), about Black Liberation through Black economics and how Black folks can’t expect to be liberated through this same racist ass, fucked-up, patriarchal, capitalistic system that has oppressed us for centuries. KK put into words, what I had been thinking at least for the last year.
Since deciding to embark on this new business venture, I have been trying to put myself in the mindset of an entrepreneur. I’m getting LLC paperwork, paying for a website, brainstorming with my partner about investors and brand strategy, trying to link up with other business owners whose businesses coincide with ours. Basically I’ve been following the American blueprint on how to start a small business. But I keep wondering, “Will this liberate me? Or will I just be a slave to this business the way I’m a corporate slave to my current employer?”
There are so many testimonials of first time business owners saying you should be prepared to work 24/7. There are no days off; no free weekends. But you’re doing what you love, so it should be fun and not feel like work. That’s what they say anyway. So I made those testimonials my fuel to really dive into my business last year.
I also joined the Black Owned Business portal awhile back to be inspired by Black business owners, and to network and see how I could “Buy Black 365”. As a consummate observer, I began to notice a pattern…a familiar pattern that white owned corporations use. A pattern of using Black people as a stepping stone to get to the big payoff: whiteness! I mentioned in a comment about Shea Moisture’s recent misstep — more like complete face plant — that Black women have long been the mules and the muses of branding/marketing. Our beauty, fashion style and vernacular are constantly being usurped by white owned corporations for profit, and apparently Black people think that is okay as long as a Black person (Richilieu Dennis, I’m looking at you) profits too.
I’m sure these up and coming Black entrepreneurs would just call it mainstream success, a chance at becoming independently wealthy. Perhaps they’d say profit was the goal above all else and that Black folks need to learn how to cater their business to everyone (i.e. white people); to think bigger, expand your demographic to maximize profit. “Their (white folks) money is green just like ours,” is a favorite quip among those obsessed with the white gaze and gaining white proximity.
After scraping their hard earned money together to get their businesses started because no trust fund or bank would take a chance on a Black small business owner, it probably feels good to turn a profit and have a modicum of success no matter where those dollars are coming from.
But then my mother’s voice pops into my head. “All money ain’t good money and everything in life comes at a price, even those things you think are free”. And this is what bothers me so much about brands like Shea Moisture or Carol’s Daughter. Something that started out clearly for “us,” a little secret only we knew about started growing and expanding. Because Black women love looking fly and smelling good, people have to ask about our beauty products. I’m sure as soon as Shea Moisture’s social media team started to see the rise in comments from Beckys about how awesome their products were for their hair too, they jumped at the chance to start rebranding. Unfortunately, that rebranding always equates to the erasure of Black women, despite the fact that we are the ones who ride hardest for the brands we truly love and want to support.
That was me for this brand. I loved how attentive their social media team was on their Facebook page, responding to every comment uniquely, not with a generic auto-responder. Shea Moisture felt like a family brand that I would always support. Watching that horrible ad was like watching the man I love and have been in a relationship with for years, show up to the family cookout with not one, but two Beckys on his arm and proceed to ignore me all night, then send me a long text later that night apologizing for fucking up and not being more sensitive to my feelings, only to turn right around and thank one of my ashy ass cousins who hate Black women for supporting him in his attempts to fuck me over with the Gidget and Bridget.
So yall don't want 2 boycott businesses like:
*Asian nail shops that beat up BW
*Companies that support Trump
But Shea Moisture is the issue
— Tariq Nasheed ?? (@tariqnasheed) April 24, 2017
All of it screams misogynoir, and I was ready to put the blame all on the Black male CEO. Then I remembered Lisa Price, Carol’s Daughter owner, did the same thing. Seems as if the willingness to sellout your own people is just par for the course in business. Maybe I shouldn’t take it so personally. Is there no room to be loyal to Black women AND be successful in business? Is the caveat to capitalism exploitation and then erasure of women who look like me? And if so, how do we build wealth for ourselves outside a patriarchal, capitalist system?