Koreans and Black Hair Care: Do African-Americans Support Black Business?
I had occasion to think about this topic again here recently. There were two things that triggered it. First, my good friend and fellow blogger Black Diaspora had a post up recently on the Black Hair Care Industry which can be read here. Shortly thereafter, I was speaking with someone who wound up closing up shop and their view was that they lacked the support of the African-American community. The latter is a frequent complaint that I have a perspective on and I’ll be addressing that in part 2 of this series of posts. I’ll preview this second post by saying unequivocally that my success in business has come from substantial backing from the African-American community, so my experience has been different and I really need to talk about my experiences with that.
This black hair care issue is a topic in and of itself, so I thought I’d devote this post to it. Although Madam CJ Walker and others created this industry, it has been taken over by Koreans, so we find ourselves in the incredibly ridiculous position of not being in control of products that black women use exclusively for their hair. Not only is this the situation here in the US, but in many places abroad as well. I’ve posted a couple of clips below from a documentary put together by Aron Ranen. These are just short clips and I recommend that you view the entire documentary which can be found on youtube. Mr Ranen has done yeoman’s work here in putting together this documentary. Please take a moment to view these short clips and my commentary continues afterwards:
So, the situation with the black hair care industry is a condition that exists internationally. I’m sure that if one were to go to areas in Africa and the Caribbean, we’d find a similar situation.
As a male, I don’t buy hair care products, so I really hadn’t thought much about this until BD’s post on this and viewing the videos produced by Aron Ranen. My first reaction is anger and it’s not directed at the Koreans, although it does seem that they’re doing some things to lock out African-American hair products entrepreneurs. I’m angry because once again, I hear someone laughing as they count the money they made from us wanting to “look good”. This “looking good” thing doesn’t stop with hair, but extends to clothes, cars, jewelry and whatever else that loses value as soon as one walks out the door with it. At the end of the day, many of us only have memories of looking good in whatever we’re wearing or driving while those who accommodated those needs extract wealth directly out of the African-American community. The Koreans are merely the latest installment of the various groups who’ve done this.
I really don’t need to say that with all our talk and bluster about this or that, this sort of thing makes us look like fools and there really shouldn’t be any doubt that we’re being laughed at.
This issue is a reflection of several things. The first thing is that rampant hedonism is the prevailing state of affairs among many within the African-American community. Totally unbeknownst to most, the African-American consumer market is heavily studied and behavior is shaped toward mass consumerism. If there’s any statistical blip in income or wealth, there’s someone who’s sitting around trying to figure out how to tap it. Trends and movements within the community are watched very closely with a near CIA type intelligence gathering operation as there are major dollars quietly riding on what direction things may take. Given that, there’s an interest that things stay in certain direction or that conditions remain a certain way. What I mean by this is that any degree of enlightened thinking is a direct threat to a host of economic interests that thrive off the existing conditions. For example, let’s say a movement took hold where Black Women decided to opt for natural hair styles. Such a movement would likely have its impetus from a political or social movement within and that mere movement would displace economic interests wedded to the existing state of affairs almost overnight. The African-American community is being watched very closely in this regard (as are most others).
Of course, a social change movement, that’s other than a fashion statement, will likely come from a leader or a group of leaders. Here’s where we have to ask what exactly is the state of black leadership. I’ve one litmus test for leadership which can be laid out with one question—is the leadership or group funded primarily from the African-American community? This is a critical question to ask, as if you don’t own the leadership, then you’re not in control of them. If you’re not in control of your leadership, then they don’t represent you, rather they’re someone’s representatives to you. This is so because whoever writes the check has the power to exert accountability. If you go through every major civil rights organization right on down to the various activist types, you’ll find not one where the majority of their income is tied to the community they purportedly represent. If you weren’t aware of that previously, you might find that shocking, but it’s true. Black people aren’t the majority financial backers of those who are supposed to be representing us and if their real backers were to stop funding them, these organizations and activists would disappear overnight. This is directly related to the black hair care situation and a host of other maladies in the African-American community.
Another word for all this outside funding would be advertising. Still another word might be lobbying. You might want to even consider it to be hush money, because not one of these so-called leaders has ever spoken about, let alone developed a structure to address, the hedonistic thinking. They’ve largely not spoken to the need for economic development in terms of what we ourselves can do. They’re too busy trying to stamp out the last vestige of racism while everyone and his mother is making incursions in our backyard and making out like a fat rat in a cheese factory.
It must be understood that we’re being very subtly positioned to continue a pursuit of social justice exclusively. This is what is being funded and it’s being funded by those who really have no interest in social justice. Their interests revolve around economics and as long as 100% of our efforts are directly towards the latest march, commemorations, victimhood and etc., they know that there’s no one attending to the political and economic development of the community. That provides a clear path for uninterrupted wealth extraction. Like I said, the Koreans are only the latest installment of various groups who’ve exploited the situation. Let me be clear here. Social justice isn’t the only problem and yet 100% of our efforts are spent in that direction. At bottom, this is a leadership problem, so that means that fixing the problem means fixing the leadership problems first and before the other issues can be addressed.
On the one hand, our problem is the lack of financially independent leadership. On the other hand, the leadership ranks are depleted because our best and brightest are not available to our community as they’re generally employed elsewhere. In a way, another form of wealth is being extracted in terms of people. That leaves us at a competitive disadvantage as the Koreans and others have their best with them as they figure out how to target and control an industry.
We have to understand the issue more broadly and see it as more than just the Koreans taking over. It’s our positioning and a dearth of leadership that has set this up and as long as this continues, we’ll experience successive iterations of various groups doing the same thing while our community gets poorer and poorer. Yes, I’m angry, but it’s not at the Koreans, but at the pretenders sitting on the throne of leadership. If there’s any place where there needs to be a palace coup, it’s in the African-American communities across the nation.