The Presidential election is not until next year, but the campaign trail is already hot. Meanwhile, doesn’t it seem like everywhere you look, people suddenly seem to be becoming more and more interested in black women and girls? None of this is by accident, and I think we should have a casual conversation about what this actually means.
Black women provide an excellent consumer base to support a business off of. Professionals in hair care, dermatology, cosmetics, and weight loss products have realized this already. Politicians like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren realize it, too. As do executives working at Disney, Victoria’s Secret, Strayer University, Excelsior University, and Lincoln Motor Company. As do the casting directors, producers, and managers of musical acts, movies, and television shows marketed toward black female audiences. Are you seeing my point yet?
Now, I am not saying this is all bad. When all eyes are on us, we can use the extra leverage to realize a few victories. Nia Franklin being Miss America is a big one, Leomie Anderson’s becoming the first dark-skinned Victoria’s Secret Angel is another example, and now Halle Bailey being cast in the role of Ariel in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid is another. But do not mistake these few advancements for the true progress that we need as dark-skinned black women. We should not be pacified into dropping our causes simply because a few more black faces have crossed our line of sight.
The facts still remain:
Too few DSBW are offered positions of executive leadership at corporations
DSBW are not as protected or looked out for as vigilantly as light-skinned women are
Portrayals of DSBW in media lean too far toward overweight, poor, illiterate depictions, and not nearly enough toward fit, feminine, happily-in-love depictions where DSBW can be seen as intelligent and delicate.
If the “whole” world was really working so hard to change and become more accepting and tolerant year after year, these problems would at the very least be less common.
But DSBW are still fighting to be heard, to be seen, to be recognized, to have our rights honored, all while being told that now is the greatest time ever for us to realize success because our world is so much more tolerant. Black women make up the largest demographic of emerging entrepreneurs currently, and I’m happy to be part of that demographic. But if you ask me, it’s a testament to how badly the American workplace has folded, which leaves black women seeking to control the narrative of their lives a bit by controlling the work itself rather than having work control them. The spaces did not become more inclusive for us, which is why so many of us are moving on.
And we should keep moving on. Rather than expecting systems to include us, let’s not rely so much on inclusion as a basis for trust and loyalty. As Tory Lanez demonstrated, it’s easy to give the appearance of inclusion, martyrdom, and sincerity. We should be after true change in the form of more DSBW leading Fortune 500 companies, and more DSBW love interests in mainstream media.
But until then (and I say that fully acknowledging that the day probably won’t come in my lifetime) if their systems don’t really want to engage with us, I say we don’t engage with them. Vote based on who appears to represent your interests best. Research local ballot measures in your town and stay educated on how certain measures can affect you and your wallet. Hold elected officials accountable for the promises they made on the campaign trail that never came to fruition. Refuse to give your hard-earned money away to people who get rich off of degrading you. Vote, spend, and act smart.
Antoinette is a consultant, author, yogini, and host of The Midday Reset Podcast. When she is not advising clients, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.