Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Black Girl Magic is Real - Part I

This began as an omnibus piece that would touch upon a variety of issues, and it still will...just in two parts because I have a LOT to say. Overall, as you can tell from the title, the issue is Black Girl Magic: More Than a Hashtag (that looks like it should be the title of my next TED talk). In this first installment, I will address a few of our outrages of the moment.

Shea Moisture
So let's begin with the Shea Moisture (SM) folks who released this ad featuring one black woman along with several white women. A whole lot of edges curled tight with rage because the Sisterhood of Naturalistas was NOT having it! Within hours, SM issued an apology that only made matters worse when some genius thought it would be okay to reference the company's loyal base as POC (people of color) rather than explicitly acknowledging that most of those folks are/were black women.

As I was writing this and going about my day, a friend shared this information to FB regarding the company's attempt at damage control. And this was my reaction on the BBW page, which speaks to the underlying problem of assuming that this new marketing campaign was somehow benign. Instead, this foolishness is ranking up there with recent gaffes made by Pepsi, United Airlines and anything Steve Harvey says regarding the President.

As a consumer who has used and recommended Shea Moisture products for quite a while, I have not reacted with the same impulse to boycott as many of my sistren because I do understand; yet simultaneously I don't quite understand. On the one hand, SM is looking to expand its market appeal by advertising to non-black women. I'm sure they have all the market research to support that effort and launched what they thought was the appropriate campaign aimed at achieving that objective. And that's where we cue the outrage--this ad implies that women's hair issues are universal. Which they are not.

Which is something we thought the folks at SM understood until this debacle. And judging from the faces of the women identified as in charge of this new campaign, I am guessing that none of them ever accidentally/on purpose wandered down the ethnic hair aisle, let alone bought these products to overcome 'hair hate'...

I already said on FB that the backlash reflects how sensitive we are to the aesthetics, socio-economics, and politics of black hair. We see that ad and not only do we not see ourselves, but we see every effort that has been made throughout history to marginalize our experiences. No offense to the one black actress who is featured, but she should know as well as we do that white women will not buy products marketed to black women (check the MAC counter the next time you're at the mall). So this ad was meant to "include" us while reeling them in. And I won't even point out the problematic colorism issue on display.

So here is how you know #blackgirlmagic is powerful, and if Shea Moisture can save itself: (1) fix your apology to acknowledge that black women supported and helped to build your brand; (2) fix your ad to address hair health, not hate; and (3) fix your personnel department so that you won't do anything like this again!

Stupid Misogynist Memes
Someone posted this meme in a FB group to solicit the usual negative sister-girl denouncements, and I almost added my two cents until I realized, I have at least a dollar's worth of commentary. So I decided to address this fuckery here.

This was shared in a group of Spelman alumnae, which is part of the reason why this post drew my ire (it depicts a group of soon-to-be Spelman alumnae). But even if this were not a picture of my Spelman sisters, it is a picture of black women lined up to do what apparently this person could not, which is graduate from high school (let alone college) judging from the poor grammar. But let me elevate the discourse from the petty and onto the substance of this ignorance: how black women's achievement somehow hinders the progress of the black community.

Naw boo, ignorance hinders progress. And willful ignorance is how we ended up with a reality TV star in the White House, so explain that shit in a clever meme. Explain how a black woman with an advanced degree and a good job who owns her home is not "helping" the community when more than likely she is living in that very community? The tax assessments that she pays along with her mortgage support the local public schools, libraries, parks, and provide various other jobs in that community. The Little League football/baseball/basketball/soccer games she attends are in support of her black sons...and the rest of the incidental expenditures you cite reflect the choices that women with jobs get to make in terms of spending their money.

And with that, I move on to more important matters, which is to acknowledge the fact that this meme was posted on a page dedicated to ridiculing this type of nonsense. And the face peering back at me in that "oh no he didn't/hold my purse and earrings girl" expression made my day. Hallelujah I have found my tribe--other sisters committed to calling out so-called conscious buffoonery! Seriously, because posted on this same page was a meme that attacked Serena Williams' relationship with her gazillionaire boyfriend and another meme that equated white supremacy with black matriarchy...

And the #blackgirlmagic that destroys this nonsense is so powerful, because it is done without saying much. She just posts and allows the ignorance to defend itself. Which it can't and I am so here for that!

Bill O'Reilly
Karma is #blackgirlmagic that you didn't even see coming for you. Karma is that black woman you called "hot chocolate", who kept her cool, and waited until the time was right to tell the world that your racist, sexist, bloviating on-air persona is partially an act because you secretly have a thing for black women. And FOX News couldn't fire you fast enough once that was revealed.

And all of that is because you chose to pick on Auntie Maxine, one of our Busy Black Foremothers, who didn't even bother to waste more than a tweet on you.

You asked for it and got it. BOOM!

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