SheaMoisture and My White Privilege

As a white mom to a little Black girl, learning to care for her hair over the past couple years has been a big deal.

The Black natural hair world is really cool! There are countless bloggers and vloggers who teach hairstyles and share tips on the best products. Not only do they look at the science behind the ingredients, but also the ethical side, with a big emphasis on supporting Black owned businesses.

We had recently switched to SheaMoisture brand at the advice of friends and Phoebe’s hair really liked it. I was thrilled, because the product had a lot going for it. The company is partially Black owned, uses natural ingredients, and is easy to find in any store. It seemed like our hair routine was set for awhile.

And then SheaMoisture released their latest commercial:

My Black friends were offended. The people in Black haircare groups were offended. Black Twitter was offended.

And they had good reason to be. The ad for a company that has been supported and promoted by Black women for years, put a heavy focus on white women (who already have a million products marketed to them). And it made white women’s dislike of their own hair comparable to how Black women’s hair is systemically shamed in our culture. (I mean, Black people can legally be denied a job for wearing a standard Black hairstyle… but tell me again how you don’t like your hair color.)

I listened to Black women express pain over being brushed aside. I heard them vow to never again buy from a company that was so quick to sell out their loyal customer base for a dollar. And I agreed with them.

But I had finally found something that worked on my daughters hair…

I 100% knew the commercial threw Black women under the bus, but I sat there rationalizing why I could still buy their product:

“I don’t know what to use instead. I can’t spend a fortune trying other products. Phoebe’s hair health is more important. When she’s older, she can decide what products to buy. SheaMoisture is so accessible.”

Guys, I was literally saying, “I can put my own convenience over the concerns of Black women who are being marginalized, because this doesn’t directly affect me.”

I know better. But this is what a lifetime of white privilege teaches us. And it takes a lot of deliberate soul searching to unravel the layers.

So this isn’t really about a haircare product. It’s about my reluctance to be inconvenienced in order to stand with those that our society typically ignores. If I can’t sacrifice my comfort in something as simple as not buying a product that bypassed Black women (especially when I’m raising a Black woman in my own home), how do I ever expect to speak up when I see other forms of oppression?

We’re all familiar with Bible verses like Isaiah 1:17.

Learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

But what if it is uncomfortable? What if seeking justice means we need to have difficult conversations? What if correcting oppression costs us more money? Do we still do what’s right or do we rationalize why it doesn’t really matter?

So I won’t be buying SheaMoisture any more. Even if it seems like “just hair stuff,” it’s actually a big deal, because I need to work on my heart and shake off some attitudes I hadn’t seen before. And thanks to this great list (click here), I’ve got some options to try!

 

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