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May 4, 2017

Revealing More Racism with Shea Moisture

If you have not heard about the Shea Moisture controversy you have been living under a rock and you should click here before continuing. Caught up? Ok, let us begin.

The backlash Shea Moisture received from this ad has been great and I want to share my initial reaction. "Umm... so where the black people? This halfie ain guh 4c hair. Show me da den ah gon know dis can wuk for errybody." My problem was not with the caucasian women rather it was with the lack of unambiguously black women. This has not been the case with many members of the black community and that is why we are here today class. We must address the fact that black people have an insane need to own things and have them be black. I wonder how that is different from white people in the Netherlands thinking that they own Hillegersberg and Wassenaar (wealthy neighborhoods in Rotterdam and The Hague).

I read a blog post that shocked me. An educated black woman writes that white women are trying to infiltrate our (black people) culture, hair being a major part of it. Yes cultural appropriation is a real thing and I will thus never buy another Marc Jacobs product. (See Jackie Aina's video on his sins here. If you want to find alternatives, she's got you too.) However, Shea Moisture is not promoting any type of cultural appropriation. They are a brand that wants to expand because there are not enough black people in America to make this brand as successful as Garnier, Pantene and Suave. This is where the problem lies because we want it to be ours. We have this slave mentality that tells us that ownership is power.

My well-loved relaxed hair.
Shea Moisture was created for black people by black people but we have never addressed the fact that the brand only truly caters to naturalistas and not to people who have chosen to relax their hair. The Natural Hair Movement has long morphed into a shaming party. Many bloggers and influencers never come out and say "relaxed hair is means that you don't love skin, hair and ultimately yourself" but when they talk about how much their natural hair is synonymous with self-love what does that say? "I love my body so I stopped putting all those chemicals in my system." Really now? So I don't love mine?

The problem with our hair love is ours. Black women not liking themselves because they are dark is OUR problem. I am aware of implicit bias but that is another problem and not necessarily our own though it affects us. We need to start teaching girls that they are beautiful and that their hair does not define them. We pretend as if this Natural Hair Movement is about hair care when we know that it is not. It is about ethnicity and I am far too comfortable in my chocolatey goodness to give a damn about my hair. If anyone is wondering I have 4c/4z hair and with a full head of hair caring for it is a three person job. I love my relaxed hair and my natural hair was beautiful and still represents a beautiful part of my life, childhood.

This controversy has revealed something very interesting about the black community: privilege is not welcome. "You are white and do not have true struggles with your hair or even makeup because any conditioner will do for you and your foundation shade is in every drugstore so bye." We dismiss them because of their skin color and if that is not racism I do not know what is. Shea Moisture is becoming more inclusive because of business but we need to include white people to survive. Having them care about our brands gives us a platform and broad audience. We want white people to see more fros and if they want to try it? Why should we care? You see I do not seek to normalize dreads or bantu knots on them. I want the world to see it all as normal and not a specifically black thing because hair belongs to us all. Shea Moisture understands something the black community does not. They do not want to simply own the industry and start conversations within it. They want to control it because control is power.