My Response to the Reactions to the Shea Moisture Backlash - Black Women Understand Business Just Fine, Thank You!
There have already been quite a few articles and blog posts explaining why Shea Moisture's latest ad campaign was messed up and the cultural significance of that faux pas. You can read a few here, here, and, for some humor in your woke cereal, here. Despite Black Women explaining very rationally and clearly why we're upset and despite Richelieu Dennis, CEO of Sundial Brands (Shea Moisture) himself acknowledging and apologizing for our very valid criticisms, I still see people not disagreeing, but actually blaming black women.
Blaming us for being selfish and not wanting to see black businesses grow and expand (WHO is riding and dying for black-owned brands more than black women? Our aisle in Target is poppin from our support).
Blaming us for not understanding business and seeing that market diversification is necessary to take the brand to the next level (Sundial was valued at $700 million in 2015. We were holding them down, not holding them back!).
Blaming us for having the *audacity* to expect that a black-owned brand do right by us and always represent black women in a world where other brands flood our TVs and computer screens with images women with silky, pin-straight hair, while occasionally showing one of our beloved celebrities with a weave and trying to convince us their products can help us achieve this look (As if we don't know that only Brazilian bundles are the only way we ca get that look!).
Blaming US (!) for not supporting our own but claiming that we support the Asian beauty supply stores that don't reinvest in our neighborhoods (What kind of fake news? There's this thing called Amazon that allows me to get same day shipping on all my favorite black-owned products AND extensions. The only thing I step into the local beauty supply store for is earring backs...).
What's worse, so much of the criticism seems to be coming from a vocal set of black men and white women, exactly the people who have no business weighing in on the conversation because they aren't affected by it. It's offensive and silly that individuals from those demographics are trying to discredit our outrage and, furthermore, think that we want to destroy black businesses and don't understand that expansion is necessary.
Here's what I say to that.
As a company that started off as #teamnatural #igotgoodhairbecauseihaveafricaninmyfamily, it is very strange and seems intentional that the recent advertising didn't include a diverse array of black women or racial diversity in general. They could have featured an assortment of curly white women, curly Indian women, curly latinas, etc. and achieved the same effect of Shea Moisture is for everyone! If, for argument's sake, we dare say that Shea Moisture wasn't made just for black women... It is (was) certainly, at the very least, a niche product for women with curly hair. Expansion and growth is the goal for any company, but deviating from your original identity is tricky. If you do taxes or sell kitchenware, you're not risking your customer base when you expand to other demographics. However, if you claim you sell kitchenware specifically for Caribbean, African, and Black Southern cuisine, but then you say the same pots and pans can actually also be used to make lasagna and Shepherd's pie, your customer is going to wonder why they are investing in you? You told them they were special and then said: "actually, everyone is special!". How do you expect them to feel? In a world where there are literal tons of products that cater to straight, oily, fine hair, I don't see why Shea Moisture would risk their loyal customer base to try to curry the favor of the straight hair demographic. It's impossible to be everything for everybody and there are other ways they could have sought expansion without compromising the very soul of the brand.
Finally, to the claims that we are holding the black community back by deciding to withdraw support from a Black owned natural hair brand I merely say, "This isn't 2008". Today, in 2017 black-owned natural hair brands are outchea. And not just at the local pop-up flea market either. We have a whole aisle in most major retailer locations including Target, Walmart, and even Whole Foods. There are just way too many options for you to be telling me how I should be spending MY piece of the black community's $1.2 trillion buying power. This mentality of having to compromise our morals and values just to buy black is exactly why brands, creators, and celebrities will continue to make unforgivable choices without thinking twice. While I won't convince a sister to give up the brand if it's working for her, I can also fully understand the woman who decides that she had been betrayed too deeply to feel good about the purchase anymore.
Everyone everywhere needs to learn to listen to black women. We may not all agree collectively on this issue or any issue, but our voices have value and we refuse to continue to be silenced and discredited. Before falling into the too easy trap of assuming that black women just like being angry (who does?! no one!) try to understand where we're coming from or recognize how your differing identity might be preventing you from understanding, then make the choice to believe us.
This post was written at 12 AM in a stream of consciousness. Please excuse any and all typos or incomplete thoughts. I'll get to them later. Or not. We'll see :-P