Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

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Well, it looks like we could barely begin to pull all of our proud black history moments out the archives before the insults were being flung left and right politically and commercially. You’re probably wondering which insult – because there are just so many. For the purpose of this week’s Money Issues blog, I am referring to the mainstream resurgence of black face. Albeit the political references occurred decades ago – and are being brought to light now; what say you about the famed luxury brand Gucci?

If you are not an avid social media user, let me take a moment to bring you up to speed.

Last week Gucci, the Italian luxury brand of fashion and leather goods, revealed one of their latest apparel items that sparked a widespread uproar. The brand advertised a white woman wearing a black turtleneck that extended past the nose with a slit mouth opening piped in a thick red border.

At first sight, any African-American would immediately draw the correlation between this image and the representation of black face. Although our ancestors were the direct benefactors of this demeaning and defiling depiction of blacks in theater, film, and print, I am for certain that I am in large company attesting to the rage that wells up when these images are displayed as a historical reference and revived modernly.

Many may argue that a diversity and inclusion team would solve the constant occurrence of bigotry. I would assert that these brands are fully aware of what is being depicted, as they stand to represent the original creators of black defamation. Lest I remind you of last year’s H&M blunder involving the young black male child and the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle” plastered across his chest, or the longstanding rumors of designers like Liz Claiborne and Tommy Hilfiger not designing for minorities.

Fact: As of this time last year Nielsen reported that African-American spending was at $1.2 trillion annually, and that brands have a lot to lose if their marketing strategies aren’t positioned for inclusion.

African Americans make up 14% of the U.S. population but have a tremendous influence over spending on essential items:

$573 million on personal soap and bath needs

$54 million on feminine hygiene products

$61 million on men’s toiletries

$810 million on bottled water

$587 million on refrigerated drinks

$151 million on women’s fragrances

43% of the 75 million Millennials in the U.S. identify as African American, Hispanic, or Asian.

We hold the value to the bottom line of many of these mainstream corporations. In order to make an impact we must first reclaim our self-worth.

I am not for certain what that means for artists that have conjoined their identity to brand popularity in either stage name, lyrics or commercials. Or for those of us as consumers that tend to place our value in the ability to buy these brands. But, let me remind you that the goal is to be rich, not to look rich. 

Full circle to the fourth principle of Kwanzaa: Ujamaa (cooperative economics) – To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Somewhere along the line we began to hold the work, the intention, the creativity, the success and the level of integrity of others in higher regard than what we are able to produce ourselves. I believe that the survival of our community requires that we return, along with our dollars, to the inherent capabilities of our people.

Self-love is the best love. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

Sis grab your purse. My brotha get the bag and let’s keep doing the work.

-Drea

Photo Source: Freepik

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