As difficult as it may be for some to believe, in 2020 there are still White people who believe the very mention of anything “Black” is somehow racist. This is partly how the pretense of a colorblind society is maintained, by pretending that we are all just one happy family and that everything that one has is a result of merit. So, if someone is behind or failing it must be their own fault.
Recently, Target Corporation featured Black woman-owned business Honey Pot in an advertisement as part of its Black History Month “Founders We Believe In” ad campaign.
The commercial was indeed inspiring. Near the end of it, Beatrice Dixon, the founder of Honey Pot, said, “The reason it’s so important for the Honey Pot to do well is so that the next Black girl that comes up with a great idea, if she could have a better opportunity that means a lot to me.”
The statement seemed reasonable and it made sense that as a Black woman, she would point out that she hoped her success would motivate someone else who looked like her. Absolutely nebulous right? Wrong!
The commercial received severe backlash from White people who accused Target of being racist for talking about Black people. Some assumed that the women’s feminine products made by Honey Pot were only for Black women.
An article on madeamenoire.com stated that “Once Black women caught wind of this attack on her business for no good reason, they took to social media to spread the word.” Black women and other people of goodwill responded by purchasing the product and sales reportedly increased by 50%; some stores shelves were literally emptied as a result of the show of solidarity.
But the critics had a good reason to complain, they perceived incorrectly that the product was either not for them or not about them and thus racist. To paraphrase the company’s motto, the product line is made by women for women.
The online rating site Trust Pilot received thousands of negative and one-star reviews of Honey Pot with many being outright racist. Many revealed that they badly misunderstood the product’s target audience and the owner’s message about inspiring young Black girls.
Here are a few examples of the negative comments:
“Racism, plain and simple is OK if you are not white I guess…”
“I received a bottle of one of the honey pot cleansers in my BUMP box subscription my husband bought for me during my pregnancy. I thought the products was just alright… then I saw the commercial where the founder of the company stated that it’s to empower black women—not ALL women, only black women… It made me feel that the company is not only racist but small-minded and not worth purchasing; I will tell all my friends and anyone who asks that the products are not worth purchasing…very disappointed in the company and founder.”
“This company has decent products but has racist advertising. Pls change your commercial. I’m surprised some of the networks aired it.”
The confused responders calling the ad racist revealed their own bias. For them, that ad does not make sense in a world in which everything is about them. For these people, anything that even appears to be about someone else, or some other culture, is offensive. Nothing has a right to exist if it is not about them, according to these commenters. After all, there’s no need to single out young Black girls since they are a part of the U.S. and have the same opportunity as anyone else, right?
But as one White woman on social media pointed out, “Representation matters. If we see it, we can be it. The problem is that we do not see or hear the success stories of Black people, especially Black women, at anywhere near the same rate as White people. And, also because the systems in place that support success in this country, in large part, excludes Black women.
“Only a tiny bit of venture capital is channeled to Black-owned businesses. But let’s be specific—out of 85 billion dollars in venture capital in the market in 2017, only 2.2 % was funding for female founders, and Women of Color saw less than 1%. LESS THAN ONE PERCENT. Which means that what this woman did was against literally all of the odds. All of them.”
And the complainers are using racism incorrectly. Black people can be biased, prejudiced even, but not racist because the working definition of racism says that it is the combination of prejudice plus power.
The commenter quoted Ricky Sherover-Marcuse, who asserted that, “While expressions of racial prejudice directed at White people may hurt the White person/people individually or personally, they do not have the power or authority to affect the White person’s social/economic/political location and privileges.”
But even with that clarity— Dixon didn’t mistreat anyone. The ad simply highlighted that her company was Black-founded and Black-owned and that she hoped to inspire others that look like her. How can that be anything other than good?
Justice, then peace.