How Racism Is a Business

“Everyday racism is the normalised experience that we encounter daily based on our difference from the white norm,” – Akala

I had a brief discussion with a few mates last night on why black women should not wear weaves. My point was wearing weaves was easily the highest level of self hate. Then it hit me when I asked where can I buy African hair? One of my mates said and I quote “I have never heard of African women who would like to donate or sell their hair to other women”. At that point it hit me that racism is a business, and we are the consumers.

Make no mistake about it. Racism is a business, PERIOD. Like any other business, racism requires funding, marketing, consumers and makes money. Like any other sustained and successful marketing campaign, it affects everyone. There are centuries of marketing and public relations designed to support the idea that white is right and everyone else is a problem.

Here’s one example, driving in town the other day with a white friend of mine and at the traffic lights next to us was a sleek G Wagon Mercedes Benz driven by a young, black man. As I was looking at the driver and his car, my friend said, “Hmmm, I wonder what he does for a living.”. Think about that for a moment. Of all the things I could have considered, suspicion and drugs were the ones that came to mind.

It’s not rocket science that a young working-class black man does not control the multi-trillion dollar drug industry. Yet the connection between people that look like me and drug dealers has been etched into my mind. Thanks to a plethora of misleading statistics like the one released by the FBI in 2010 stating that between 2001 and 2010, 816,000 black people had been arrested for possession of marijuana compared to only 112,000 white people. Now I don’t know if you have ever noticed but most drug kingpins aren’t black, which begs the question: who is the supplier?

These type of stats feed a culture of racial assumptions that produce micro-aggressions. According to Wikipedia, microaggressions are defined as, “brief and common daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental communications, whether intentional or unintentional, that transmit hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to a target person because they belong to a stigmatised group.”

Microaggressions are the normalised experiences that black people encounter daily based on their differences from the white norm. Take for example being called “foreigner” when white people from other countries are likely to be called “Expats” or some other fancy name like that. Take a waiter asking how many of the “tribe” will join me for lunch at a restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD.

What of the constant feeling of being a suspect when you walk into a retail shop as the security officers alert themselves of your presence via the walkie-talkie. This leads to the kind of a shame that prophetically takes the bass out of my voice or attempts to make myself smaller in an elevator where I am the only black person.

How about the instances where black children feel embarrassed when they say their African names. Even in schools that are predominantly black? I am yet to see a child called John or Peter laughed at and feel shame as they introduce themselves.

I could go on and I’ve left out the hard stuff.

In the grand scheme of things, these micro-aggressions seem minor and inconsequential. Yet in fact, they lay the ground for much larger injustice. The effects of this are of biblical proportions to the degree that skin bleaching has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Did you know that 40% of Chinese women and 77% of Nigerian women bleach their skin, according to the World Health Organization.)

Look at Hollywood, where there was a time blacks were constantly cast in roles of servants and clowns. It was an exception when a black person was depicted as an honorable, knowledgeable and caring human being. Media is a powerful tool in shaping the public’s opinions on specific racial groups. The media provide the lens through which we view others, whether black, white, brown, poor, politician, or terrorist. The media also provide a lens through which people see themselves. This where the hair business becomes a $10 billion/year industry, all for acceptance.

The marketing of the supremacy of whiteness is a real business and has affected the way all of us think for centuries. That’s why someone had the nerve to walk up to me and say “you could have been more handsome if you didn’t have a big nose”. Thankfully, I am no Michael Jackson otherwise i would have paid $44,000 to break my nose. Until we as black people begin to understand our worth, our future will be interesting.

In order to get it out of us, it will require a lot of work. It needs you to be honest and make an effort to love yourself as a black person. And most importantly love and respect people that look like you… in all shapes, colours, sizes, opinions, levels of intellect, etc. Read the glorious history of the African people. That seems to have a positive impact on our group racial esteem. We cannot continue to fund industries that force us to change our identity.

Racism seems to be one of the only problems that some people, conveniently, believe that we can solve without first analysing its cause and plotting its destruction as any concerned doctor would with any other disease. Remember, intent matters – in advertising, media, art, leadership, and everyday conversation. We must understand the relationship between top down propaganda and the bias that we carry. Fighting prejudice both in society and within ourselves is a key part of the search for justice.

May our black women begin to love themselves the way they are. The dark skin, the kinky hair, the thick lips and thick bods. Importantly, may black men love their women the way they are, they already have so much fighting against them. Embrace the stretch marks, they look good on that melanin skin anyway. She’s not ‘pretty for a black girl‘, she’s beautiful, end of story.

As always, hope you and yours are safe. Share with us your thoughts in the comments section. Would love to hear what you think. that said, #weavesmustfall

Photo Credit: Photo by Lucxama Sylvain from Pexels