If you are a Black woman that was raised in an urban city in America then more than likely, your neighborhood staples resembled something like this: fast food restaurant, liquor store, church, hair salon and beauty supply store. I grew up on Chicago’s West Side and that description summarizes the crux of the locations that embodied urban life for me.
Much like many of you reading this, I have spent at least 3/4 of my life either sitting in someone’s salon chair, or preparing to sit in someone’s salon chair by visiting my local beauty supply shop in order to purchase whatever concoctions and assortment of supplies that were necessary to either aide my stylist in her styling my hair or for my own everyday styling.
The one thing that always left me curious is why are so many Black hair product carrying stores owned and operated by people other than African Americans? By “people other than African Americans” I am mostly referring to people of Asian descent. In fact, to this day I cannot think of where I’ve ever seen one owned and operated by Blacks.
Something in that never sat right with me for a number of reasons. One was I always felt as though I was under surveillance as I shopped. Whatever the reason, it isn’t a nice feeling walking through the store with a pair of eyes on you in every aisle. It encompasses a feeling of being attacked with a double edged sword: They need my patronage but not me. Thus the pondering of why we continue to support non-Black beauty businesses.
If not the incessant stalking, then it’s the attempt to earn their “Black Card” (which is an awkward enough zone for the both of us) by speaking to me as though I can only understand African American colloquiums and slang. This, as you can imagine is equally undesirable but what is even more uncomfortable for me is that when the day is over, these shop owners do not lock their shop and walk down the street to their home. Instead they get in their car and drive to their pretty house in the suburbs or on the other side of town. Far, far away from the Black neighborhood and the Black customers that pour money into their pockets and subsequently supports their family.
Well, why do you still go there? You may be asking this now. To be honest, for years, they were my only resource and probably yours too. It is only as of recent that the black hair industry has exploded where anyone can order their hair supplies online directly from their supplier and not have to face any feelings of impending racism.
Still, even today there are many products that we unfortunately don’t have the resources to order online and have to purchase from a brick and mortar beauty supply. This has always led me to ponder why more African Americans from within these urban neighborhoods aren’t operating beauty supplies in the neighborhoods that they live in. The Black Wall Street happened before and it can happen (even more successfully) again now. We all know the story, so why hasn’t it happened yet all across America?
One of the main reasons is that a lot of African Americans are complacent and don’t have the desire to do what is necessary to own a beauty supply shop. Sure, we may like styling hair, going to the hair shows and seeing the newest styles. We may even successfully create hair products intended especially for us but we have become comfortable with the idea of the Asians having the beauty supply store game on lock.
Now, I am in no way, encouraging you to abandon your local beauty supply. After all, some of you may have been patronizing them for years and may have even bonded with the owners now. They may know you by first name and smile every time they see you. I’m sure they smile even harder when you are opening your wallet. However, I want there to be a concise understanding that you have options. No one is forcing you to support anyone that does not fully support you, appreciate your dollars, and or makes you feel like you pose a threat every time you enter their premises.
If you are like me, and are exhausted with the feelings of forced friendliness, then perhaps it is time to do a Google search for your favorite Black hair products online. Or, you might disagree. In either case, this is an issue we need an open dialog on so speak on it.