The social injustices waged against my people have always affected me, even when you don't realize it as you sit across from me at a deskside, or hand me a gift bag at the close of an event. But this time, following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, it just feels different. Maybe it's because I'm older now, and more socially conscious than I was in 2013 when I was sitting in my college dorm room while the "not guilty" verdict came down in the murder case of Trayvon Martin. Maybe it's because at 25, the prospect of giving birth to a Black child has never been closer, and the thought of them being gunned down just for existing is terrifying. Or maybe, like so many others, I'm just exhausted. I'm exhausted of seeing those that look like me lynched by the hands of white supremacy, with no consequences for those who do the lynching. I'm exhausted from pretending like these feelings fade away just because I have essentially unlimited access to free beauty products and top-notch beauty treatments. And I'm exhausted from beauty brands staying silent in times of social injustice.
Typically, I can maintain a neutral face at work. I'm able to hold conversations with brands focused solely on a new product launch without thinking about what's happening to Black people outside of my beauty bubble. I can look at an email pitch without considering if the brand is active in combating systemic racism before I choose to feature them in a story. Up until this point, I can admit that my relationships with beauty brands were surface, at best. However, the plight of my people and the toll it's taken on me can no longer be compartmentalized for the sake of serums and eyeshadow palettes.
The same brands that ask me for favors are proving that my life — and Black lives — mean nothing to them outside of business relationships.
Last week, following the documented murder of George Floyd, those 8 minutes and 46 seconds became the only thing I could think about. The only thing that the Black community as a whole could think about. However, as my friends and family flooded our social media feeds with messages to spread awareness to the police brutality that has plagued Black people long before Floyd's murder, I noticed that so many brands — beauty brands that I considered friends — were eerily silent. Their social media accounts made no mention of what was happening, but still posted about sales and their latest "exciting" celebrity partnerships. They offered no condolences to the families of the victims. They made no mention of the racism that this country was built upon, or addressed their Black customers — ones who spent $465 million on skincare products in 2017 alone. Suddenly, the same brands that ask me for favors were proving that my life — and Black lives — mean nothing to them outside of business relationships.
I've always done my best to support Black-owned beauty brands, both in my work and in where I choose to spend my money. But now, it's nonnegotiable. My conscience won't allow me to highlight brands that have to be strong-armed into speaking out about racism and violence against Black people. I can't shop from brands that respond to inquiries about their statements on the global unrest with a canned response that I have to wait for until business hours begin. I can't stand to see the performative acts of solidarity, knowing that behind closed office doors, abusive work environments for their Black employees are abundant — that is, if they even have any.
My conscience won't allow me to highlight brands that won't speak out against racism and violence against Black people.
The reality is that without Black culture and Black dollars, the vast majority of these brands wouldn't have a leg to stand on. But surprise: Everyone wants to emulate Black culture and wants Black support until it's time to speak out about the senseless violence against the people within it. The violence that arises when people like myself step outside for a jog (like Ahmaud Arbery), are killed while playing video games with our families (like Atatiana Jefferson), or are even sleeping peacefully at home (like Breonna Taylor).
I'm disappointed by the beauty community's lack of outward-facing support, but sadly, I'm not surprised. These are the same publicists that smile in my face, wine and dine me at fancy business dinners, and send gushy emails when I include their brands in roundups. Their emails often conclude with "let me know how I can be of assistance." I usually don't have a response to that. But today — tired, heavy, and terrified for my life — I do: You can identify that you are undoubtedly a part of the problem. You can stop disregarding the preciousness of Black lives because you and your senior staff don't have to grapple with the dangers we do. You can create a safe space for your Black employees, one where they feel empowered to speak up for what's right. You can stop filling your social media grids exclusively with white women and the occasional Lizzo or Rihanna post while still pandering for the Black dollar. You can stop being silent in the face of your white privilege because you believe that your products and politics should be separate. You can cut the performative acts, claiming that you "stand with us" only for you not to open your purse to organizations created to fight social injustice.
The list for what you can do goes on. But while you figure it out and address how you've been complicit in Black death, I'm taking my coverage (and my wallet) to Black-owned beauty brands, and brands like Glossier and Nails.INC who have decided to put their money where their mouths are. For those that don't, save your pitches. Hold the offers for fancy dinners, and send your party invites elsewhere. I can no longer put being wined and dined above dead Black bodies.