Over the past couple months race and inclusion has been fervently discussed since the death of George Floyd going viral and the continued lobbying for change and justice for others who have been wronged by police brutality, prejudicial discrimination and bias. All this has sparked many debates in the skincare space online; bringing to light the racial disparities that exist in marketing, hiring and fair treatment.
Anti-blackness specifically is something that has been apparent in the beauty industry for many years and on many levels. If we think about marketing and what is marketing to who – many over the years have analysed blatant practices such as marketing whitening and lightening products to black and brown demographics. Now, it’s not simply a shitty practice because of the potentially harmful effects of the unregulated over the counter products – but it pushes a certain toxic culture – that ” Dark skinned people want to / should lighten their skin; be fairer”.
Colourism is rampant in black and brown communities globally and fairer skin is certainly glorified in culture – beauty and skincare corporations and companies have known this – yet, pushing this ideal through their industry, pushes forward ignorance and anti-black / anti-dark skin notions. “Dark skin is bad – Dark skin is undesirable”. Colourism and the anti- dark skin discussion is long winded and of course rooted in so much history – until it is thoroughly and honestly discussed, it makes it very difficult to progress from it.
Often we see diversity treated as a box to tick, rather than a culture striving for inclusion. In relation to skincare; brands that do no more than “ticking diversity boxes’ are stale and lack authenticity.
If a company or corporation’s efforts to be inclusive are simply performative:
- Justification – “Look we’re diverse; we can’t be racist”
- Placation – “Here’s a black person using our products”
- Racial Capitalism – “We’ll attract a bigger market if we use non-whites as commercial props”
Unless there are contributions from an inclusive range of people on all levels, “inclusion” is not impactful or sound.
Instead of pandering to minorities or a black audience/consumer base when it suits, when called out or when it’s trendy – brands and the people behind them should think differently and not market disingenuously. Inclusion is not merely a representation of of diversity (non-white faces) it’s about valuing differences equally. Now, beyond that – inclusion must include equity – not only should there be people in a room whose ideas and voices get to be heard, but those ideas can’t be under threat of erasure and must be taken seriously – because being the minority makes erasure and disregard more likely to occur.
George Floyd’s death prompted people and brands to evaluate things and suddenly pay a little attention to their black peers and contributors. Amidst what felt like performative activism; I personally wasn’t motivated or ethusued enough to participate in “educating” my audience on Instagram – Lockdown and the virus made the whole thing and the past few months very tense. I’m not one to just talk about things when they’re trending. Racial disparities, anti-blackness and exclusion is ongoing and must always be confronted – especially when things go quiet. It’s very easy for people to speak up when everyone’s doing it – but are these same people bold enough to shout when no one else is.
As a black woman I’ve certainly experienced things I perceived as anti-blackness and misogynoir; from the bullish to subtle nuances. I think racism isn’t black and white – I think it’s not just white people that need to examine bias and behaviours – so do POC; so do black people.
Let me know your thoughts – Thanks for reading xx