Since the end of May, we’ve all watched in awe (or with frustration) as many major corporations across industries have stumbled through a moment in history that has called them to the carpet to address longstanding racial injustice.
Many of these brands and their leadership teams have been left to wonder: What do we do next? How do we get this right? Others have looked for a way to make brief statements and carry on with business as usual. A few have expected Black people to collectively provide feedback and guidance on how to navigate this moment.
While many of these approaches feel frankly egregious, there is one fact that should be made unequivocally clear: Black people who have dedicated their lives to serving the Black community by developing brands and products that uniquely center them should not be required to provide any free consulting, auditing, or co-signing of non-Black brands struggling at this moment. When we reached out to Black business owners to share their feedback on how brands can do better for this story, many understandably opted out of providing "free tips" for non-Black corporations.
Others offered their heartfelt reactions to brand statements and diversity numbers that were posted in the days immediately following George Floyd’s death. Here is their gracious and thoughtful feedback about what brands should be doing, thinking about, and most importantly, what they should be acting on as we go forward.
Mahisha Dellinger, founder and CEO of CURLS
"I love the way Alice + Olivia addressed their audience, [by saying] 'We stand with the Black community. We stand for change.' They didn’t say all lives matter; that isn’t the point. They were direct and to the point. Clear, concise, and unapologetic. Kendra Scott not only reinforced the importance of #blacklivesmatter but they also donated to The Conscious Kid — an anti-racist educational youth program. Bravo!"
"[Brands should] follow the lead of those that truly have a heart and an authentic desire to impact change. The first step is to admit that there is a problem, and the second step is to put your money where your mouth is. Use your money for good. Donate. Create a fund. Give back to the Black community. Action speaks louder than words."
Sharon Chuter, Founder, UOMA Beauty
"That’s what this moment is about. We have so many qualified Black women who have left corporations after holding great positions. We may be doing our own things now, but we can give you feedback. We can tell you why we left and share our experiences. So, you can put new procedures in place. I started Pull Up for Change as an organization for this purpose. We are still in the very beginning stages. We are going to provide resources and a platform for Black people to be able to look at a company’s inclusivity score. The goal is to have this become a reporting organization for Black economic progress."
Lisa Price, Founder of Carol's Daughter
"I was moved by Nike’s 'Don’t Do It' [campaign]. And, before all of the quarantines began, Google’s Black History Month piece was beautiful. And lastly, Apple Music [which streamed music by Black artists on Beats 1 live radio for #Blackouttuesday]. It was the first time I felt like major corporations were stepping up in a different way."
"Any brand that says something just to say something because the pressure is on, but does not have a plan on how to speak to their staff who are people of color and who don’t look in the mirror to see if there is anything they are doing or if their inaction makes them complicit, has failed. Not just people of color. They have failed us all."
"It is all of our responsibility to keep the conversation going. Take this in: Every Black person I know (or someone in their family or a close friend) has a story about themselves being harassed by police. I can tell you stories about my uncles, cousins, brothers, husband, and my sons. Every Black person with a son has to let their son know at some point that they may be viewed as a threat. There will come a day in every Black child’s life when their parents have to have that ‘talk’ with them. This conversation never occurs with white children."
"That is where the conversation can begin. Let people tell their stories and ask the tough questions so that you can learn how to make it better for us all."
Blair Armstrong, Founder of GILDED
"HeyDay Skincare & Rent The Runway are two that have done a good job [of taking immediate action against racism]. Rent the Runway acted swiftly and strongly with a pledge of $100,000 to racial injustice and allocated $1,000,000 to support Black designers through their website and platforms."
"HeyDay Skincare quickly responded with donations and are participating in the #15percentpledge to stock at least 15 percent of their shelf space with Black- owned brands. Their words and actions aligned."
"So many [others] have missed the mark with 'copy-and-paste statements' that do not include any plans with tangible action. These statements are inauthentic and are falling flat. It’s not enough to post black squares and apologies."
"Brands must do more than release carefully-crafted statements of shock, outrage, and heartbreak. They should create plans with actionable items that seek to address and correct some of the obstacles and disparities that exist for Black people — action behind their words of solidarity."
"Some ways to start include to first acknowledge the possibilities that just have not been available to Black people and their businesses and work to remedy these issues. Hire Black creatives and content creators; create products and campaigns for Black consumers that are designed and executed by Black teams; work to have diversity in all levels of the organization."
"Brands should commit to investing in Black-owned businesses — offer leadership, guidance, connections, capital that is needed for Black brands to not only be successful, but also to ensure longevity, and reduce economic disparities. Data shows that well-funded Black-owned brands outperform their counterparts by 30 percent or more."
Muhga Eltigani, Founder of NaturAll Club
"Supporting the Black community should not be a fad or in any way done for temporary gain for the company. It should be a genuine commitment to uplift and foster Black people."
"Brands should seek to be inclusive by casting Black models and brand ambassadors in their marketing campaigns. They should have Black people represented on their leadership board and create growth pipelines for minority employees. There also needs to be a consistent effort to back organizations whose core mission is to propel the Black community to prosperity. And lastly, investors should look to fund Black-owned businesses and charities to help position these companies for success. When brands show up for the Black community, they influence others to do the same."
Nicky Posley, Makeup Artist
"Two indie brands that should be noted in my opinion are Danessa Myricks & AJ Crimson Beauty, who are making quality products and having a real dialogue with their consumers. They are both independent brands with very loyal followings, due to their ongoing commitments to serve both the everyday consumer and the pro artist community."
"In order to create meaningful, lasting representation and economic change, there must be Black people at the executive level, in the rooms where hiring decisions are made. Often, cosmetic brands will reach out to Black creatives for advice, but overlook Black makeup artists, hairstylists, and wardrobe talent for paid opportunities."
"Beyond the hashtags and occasional/obligatory use of Black models, makeup brands should be reaching out to seasoned Black artists who have legitimate voices in their craft, and paying them to consult about product ideas, shade ranges, and trending needs of the marketplace, specific to our community."
"Makeup is an emotional purchase, so it's important for brands to do their due diligence when formulating foundation shades for Black consumers. This is where the first opportunity to gain or lose their trust lies. Many brands don't bother having a conversation with Black creatives until they need to push the foundation launch or other 'special' initiative, then it's back to business as usual. There has to be an ongoing dialogue with the community you intend to authentically serve. Research shows that Black customers spend more on average, per transaction compared to all other ethnic groups. We deserve respect from the brands we spend our dollars with."
More ways to support Black people in beauty:
9 Black-Owned Brands Selling Protective Cloth Face Coverings
Why Following Black Beauty Professionals Is Important Now and Always
Supporting Black People in Beauty Goes Deeper Than Buying Black
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