Where Am I
When you turn on the computer to open your email, or turn on your favorite mainstream media site to check your news feed for the latest updates on what’s the new hot product to try on your skin or hair what do you see? When you walk into a store that sells your favorite products or the local mall that has advertisements of the top grooming products or your favorite moisturizer what do you see? I see blue eyes staring back at me. I see slicked back blond hair and the greatest smile attached to a square jaw with perfect cheekbones. I see a lot of white men, but what about me? I stand at 5’10”, thick black coily hair; broad shoulders and deep brown skin that my fiancée likes to call her ‘chocolate.’ That’s what I see in the mirror but when I look at all of these product advertisements, mall billboards and websites from mainstream grooming brands I ask myself: where am I?
As a man of color I struggle with this reality. As a blogger I am amazed at this reality within the industry too. The sad part is that the grooming industry does not focus on men of color as a source of income or need. Many of the men of color, like my readers and others in the industry, have a common understanding that is a negative one most of the time. For example, in 2013 Walker & Company’s CEO and Founder, Tristian Walker, called out this sad reality in an article called “New Start-Up ‘Bevel’ Tackles Race Issues in Shaving Industry” by Chavie Lieber. He said, “Folks of color get second class treatment and that needs to go.” Walker goes on to add, “When I’d need to pick up shaving products, I’d have to go find the ethnic aisle, all the way to Aisle 14, but it was really more like a shelf, and I’d have to buy the package that’s dirty and has a picture of a bald black guy. That second class experience has to go, especially since folks of color spend more money on beauty than anyone else.” Massiata Barro, a researcher, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com in the article “Africa Flagged to be The Next Male Grooming Market” how African men are not scared to purchase or use grooming products for their skin or hair.
It’s funny because there is some truth to what Walker and Barro said and according to a Nielsen.com article called “African-American Consumers Are More Relevant Than Ever,” it mentions how “Beauty supply stores are also popular within the black community, as they typically carry an abundance of ethnic hair and beauty aids […] that cater specifically to the unique needs of African-American hair textures.” I’m not sure if I like the way that is worded but I think the point is getting across. You can see based off of these examples that people of color are in agreement that our culture will buy grooming or beauty products. As a culture we agree that we are not perceived or shown in a positive light when it comes to product advertising and packaging.
Let’s be frank for a second, our society isn’t perfect and inequality is really becoming a ‘in your face’ issue for our country. A lot of people are in denial about racism and the question ‘is racism still alive’ is not even a question we ask in black culture because racism never left; it just got better at hiding itself. We have seen this issue many times through television along with social media. For example, H&M’s racial comments on Twitter stating how the company wanted to “convey a positive image” when customers asked about their lack of models of color in its South Africa campaign. Or, just recently Mac Cosmetics posted a picture of the most beautiful and full lips of a black model I’ve seen on a woman and their fans or followers said really racial comments like “N***a Lips” and “Holy sh** I thought this was Jay z”, or “Them fish lips tho.” Many times myself and other bloggers have come together to share stories of people rejecting us not because of our lack of ability to write, or passing on new information to our readers through blogging or social media. It was because we were the wrong shade of brown. Yes, how can my shade of brown not even be the right shade of brown? This is a reality and this is a sad one indeed. This is a reality that people of color, young black businessmen and women live everyday. This reality leaves me to ask the question: where am I?
This post, open letter or rant, whatever you may call it, isn’t a way for me to make people pick sides or a way for me to cause division. This is a way for me to say when you walk into the mall, when you open up your favorite magazine, or when you buy some great products for your hair, skin or body and you don’t see someone that resembles a representation of you, imagine what I see: the 5’10”, dark brown, West Indian, Polish and African mixed 20 something year old. I bet we wont see the same thing. I would be left once again asking the question… where am I?