Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Good Hair"

Good Hair, the Chris Rock movie (documentary), makes many statements about black folk preoccupation with their hair. No, I don't think blacks are the only racial group with this fixation--the beauty industry, which hair is a large part of, crosses racial lines, pulling in billions of dollars from many ethnic groups, regardless of color.

No, I'm not going the discuss the right or wrong of this fixation: I don't care about that as an issue--I'm well aware that we're not our bodies (We're more than that!), and that we don't get to take them with us when we vacate this world, leaving behind pierced ears, noses, tattoos, as well as hair, whether it's our personal hair, or whether it once belonged to another.

"When Chris Rock's daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, 'Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?' the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl's head. Rock visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people. Celebrities such as Ice-T, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symone, Maya Angelou, and Reverend Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter's question. What he discovers is that black hair is a big business that doesn't always benefit the black community and little Lola's question might well be bigger than his ability to convince her that the stuff on top of her head is nowhere near as important as what is inside."

I would urge you to watch this film, even if you have seen it once before (It's now on cable.), not because you'll learn more about weaves, extensions, the hair-dressing industry, the latest beauty-shop gossip, or any such thing, but for the statements it makes about us as a people--candid observations, visual, as well as spoken, about how well we serve our own economic self-interest.

E. Franklin Frazier, sociologist, author, and university professor, once posited this thesis, and I paraphrase: As integration (racial intermixing) becomes a greater reality in this country, black institutions will become less important--will, as a result, disappear. A safe thesis to be sure. Upon reading that, I countered: black institutions, for that reason (the on-going existence of segregation), won't disappear altogether, any time soon, because full "integration," for all its promises, will be slow in coming, and dearly bought.

And, for the most part, that has been the case--defacto segregation often rules the day within our nation, despite federal legislation and court rulings to the contrary.

Until such time that true and full integration is our lot, it behooves blacks to operate in their best economic interest--an interest that has been largely ignored over the years, notwithstanding the status of racial integration. Rather than focus on what is best for us as a people, we pretend, to our financial and economic detriment, that we're an integral part of the mainstream, when in fact we're a mostly isolated people, crowded into various enclaves throughout this vast nation.

From the documentary, you will learn that the black hair-styling industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and that others (non-blacks) outside of the black community are banking most of those billions that this industry produces.

You will learn that there are only four black hair-care product companies, out of a hundred or so, producing their own black hair-care product lines, and that blacks aren't fully represented in an industry of which they're the principal consumer--not at the production, nor the distribution end.

Unfortunately, what is true for the black-hair industry is also true for other industries--clothing, food, housing, banking, what have you. Until we own the production and distribution end of what we consume, we can't hope to improve measurably our economic condition in this country in a major way, but, rather, give to others our hard-earned income--money that will be reinvested, not within our black communities, but beyond our boundaries.

And, sadly, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

15 comments:

Greg L said...

BD,

I missed this when you posted this originally. I'm glad you did a rerun.

>>Unfortunately, what is true for the black-hair industry is also true for other industries--clothing, food, housing, banking, what have you. Until we own the production and distribution end of what we consume, we can't hope to improve measurably our economic condition in this country in a major way, but, rather, give to others our hard-earned income--money that will be reinvested, not within our black communities, but beyond our boundaries.<<

As you point out, many black businesses were spawned due to our separateness and pervasive discrimination. Hair care, funeral homes and insurance, just to name a few, were businesses we used to dominate within the our own community due to the fact that we were the only people who would serve us. As these businesses grew, the interest of others who were better capitalized also grew. As this occurred, we lost the black hair care, music and insurance industries and about the only thing I think we retained was the funeral business. I think this may be so due to the close ties it has with the black church, however there's been a great amount of consolidation even in that area.

Some of this is a function of a trend towards consolidation of many industries generally and anything that's profitable is going to attract capital and consolidators. In this sense, black business has been under assault not unlike your local hardware and clothing stores in other communities.

I do think there's a trend to move back in another direction as I think that people are going to get pretty resentful of consolidators and there will be a trend moving back to local purchasing. The issue for us is who is positioned to take advantage of the trend.

I think there's a great many things we can control that are under the radar of the consolidators. We may have lost the hair care products piece, but it would be difficult for someone to come in a create a bunch of beauty salons in black neighborhoods. The same applies to barber shops, second hand clothing stores or other things that black folks routinely buy. Actually, the lack of investment that other folks are making in the black community means there's a lack of competition and this is where we need to be taking care of business and developing the community. It's this vision that often missing within.

I think there are a couple of ways we can even deal with the consolidators who are selling black products. Since most of them are publicly traded, we can just buy stock in them. This may sound crazy, but one of the things that blacks folks could do is just buy their stock en masse and just do a take over similar to what happens frequently when there's a hostile takeover of a company. If you buy enough stock, you can get a voting block that could control the board of directors and influence policy and reinvestment.

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg: "Some of this is a function of a trend towards consolidation of many industries generally and anything that's profitable is going to attract capital and consolidators."

And this is one of the problems with capitalism, as it's now practiced--hostile take overs, and "consolidation" to kill, or suppress competition is pervasive.

Where's the Tea Party when you need it--perhaps drunk on its own spiked tea.

I had to throw in that dig!

Adam Smith made too much of the "unseen hand," as a kind of regulator, self-corrector, of business excess.

For capitalism to thrive in a way that benefits consumers, competition must also thrive. Yet, monopolies, and monopolistic behavior, seek to circumnavigate this condition, swallowing up the competition as a black hole would light and other information--or, closer to home, a massive sink hole.

"Actually, the lack of investment that other folks are making in the black community means there's a lack of competition and this is where we need to be taking care of business and developing the community."

It has to be "us," rather than "they." It's cheaper, and more profitable, for Apple to move its electronics production to China, than to the inner city, or various black communities within the U.S., other factors being equal--an educated and motivated workforce.

Capitalism gravitates toward the bottomline and profits, and away from undue risk, and heavy workforce demands--pensions, health care, reasonable working hours, and shifts--as starters.

"If you buy enough stock, you can get a voting block that could control the board of directors and influence policy and reinvestment."

Were we so united! This is a kind of a "horse out of the barn" approach, but anything would be better than nothing.

To whom did Robert L. Johnson sell his Black Entertainment Television (BET). Surely, he could have, or should have, found black investors to whom to sell it, if he didn't.

I know this kind of adherence to "black first," rather than capitalistic principles of "free markets," and "open markets" don't support the supposed amorality of capitalism.

Yet, we blacks, for years, weren't allowed to fully participate (actually discouraged from participating) in this nation's economic system as entrepreneurs and consumers with the same level of economic detachment, and neutrality, that others enjoyed.

As you know, corporate and business consolidation has contributed to our current problem of "too big to fail."

Today, I learned that four major mortgage servicers serviced 45% of this nation's mortgages: BofA, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan Chase.

One company, Ocwen Financial, has handled almost half of "home loan modifications under the government's plan to help troubled borrowers...."

Congress, the people's representatives (in name only), has become the biggest enablers of consolidators--and I don't believe that the Tea Party representatives in congress will move to end that, especially with the Koch brothers calling the shots, and pulling the strings.

Right now, it's unions and John Q. Public who will pay the price for what the banks, and the financial sector wrought, while bankers and banks continue to thrive, and their execs pocket huge bonuses at our expense.

Aron Ranen said...

Please take a moment to watch and share my documentary BLACK HAIR, it is about the Korean Take-over of the Black Beauty Biz....I have posted the film on youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p96aaTSdrAE

link to update to the original film (arson story, sunnyside houston, Bronner Bros. Convention) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT-nX25UrsI

Blinders Off said...

It is frustrating trying to inform and educate the uninformed blacks.

On the flip side it is frustrating how informed blacks turn their backs on the uninformed. There are days when I just feel it is a loosing battle :(

Look for an email from me soon, right now I have to process my frustration and get back in a positive frame of mind.

I will never understand how many black men/women can TRUST an individual, school, or business when it is obvious they are being taken advantage of.

Black Diaspora said...

Aron Ranen said...
"Please take a moment to watch and share my documentary BLACK HAIR..."

Gladly!

Black Diaspora said...

@Blinders Off: "I will never understand how many black men/women can TRUST an individual, school, or business when it is obvious they are being taken advantage of."

It's never been easy being us, and I share your "frustrations."

Black folk hair has always been our "crown and glory," and, at the same time, our curse--what do we do with it?

One thing we shouldn't do with it, is to allow others outside of the black community to profit so heavily from it at our expense.

If we can't own our own hair-care industry, then what can we own?

Where are our Fortune 500?

Greg L said...

Aaron,

I'm watching these videos and I must thank you for putting this information together. Absolutely astounding.

Greg L said...

Our ignorance is killing us. It is absolutely killing us while everyone else is getting rich. I watched the Black Hair Report from London as well. Same damn story in a different place.

Our people are just positioned for everyone to make money off of us, whether it's the prison industrial complex, discrimination lawsuits, hair supply, drugs and whatever. There's a vested economic interest in our ignorance.

Black Diaspora said...

"Our people are just positioned for everyone to make money off of us....There's a vested economic interest in our ignorance."

Trust is not easily won, nor is it easily nurtured. For us to make the kind of economic gains implied in your statement, we must first overcome that hurdle.

Yes, "[t]here's a vested interest in our ignorance," in keeping us down (so we can't compete), and in sowing dissension and separation (the better to keep us uninformed, and divided).

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]From the documentary, you will learn that the black hair-styling industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and that others (non-blacks) outside of the black community are banking most of those billions that this industry produces.[/quote]

My good friend Black Diaspora -

Please step into my "tortured mind" for a bit.

Yesterday as I did my traffic evading cut through a newly developed shopping center just south of the Atlanta airport I noticed a new business had opened.

Now keep in mind that about 2 weeks ago my wife called me and told me she wanted some wings. I said to myself "Instead of going to the 'China man' closer to my house......let me go into this new BLACK OWNED joint in this same shopping center. I had not ever gong to this place before. But the name "J Buffalo Wings" had me assuming that the owner was a brother. When I walked in - you tell me - Young Black male at the cash register taking orders. Hispanic man in the back cooking. Asian man sitting down near the cash register. Is there any chance that the "young brother" owned the place and hired these other two?

As I drove through I notice a new Dry Cleaner. They had an oversized store front and thus only had half of the place tiled and furnished. I saw the automated rack and a woman at the counter from a distance.

As I got closer - you guessed it.

Aside from the grocery store anchor "they" have the wings place, the dry cleaners, an Chinese food joint and a nail salon.

Do you see what is happening BD?

As you all focus on getting Glenn Beck off of the air as the main "racial" accomplishment THEY are infiltrating the retail space - bit by bit.

I AM NOT MAD AT THEM!!!
They are not breaking the law.

Do you see that what is "satisfying" to you IDEOLOGICALLY might not be in the long term best interests?

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]"[t]here's a vested interest in our ignorance," in keeping us down (so we can't compete), and in sowing dissension and separation (the better to keep us uninformed, and divided).[/quote]

WHO is doing this to us BD?

"Vested Interests" - this DESPITE favorable people in our schools?

Black Diaspora said...

CF, I could have responded to this blog entry of mine on your behalf: That's how predictable you, and your positions, are.

"I AM NOT MAD AT THEM!!!
They are not breaking the law."

Who said they were! If I were inclined to be mad, it would be at those of us who have allowed this to happen. It wasn't always this way: Blacks once owned their own businesses--those that whites allowed us to own--and a black middle class thrived because of it (not as well as whites), but we got by.

"Do you see what is happening BD?"

Oh, I see: Perhaps better than you.

Many blacks are tired--tired in body, mind, and soul--tired of having to prove themselves: first, that they're human; second, that being black is no worse than, or better than, being white; and that, although they're superficially different, those differences are skin deep, and not a cause to be treated with scorn, and hatred.

Some blacks search for validation, and fail to find it, not within their own race and community (where you'd expect to find it), and certainly not from without, the images and voices speaking in unison, all confirming the same message: "You're nothing! You came from nothing, and you'll always be nothing."

Why, then, would any human beings, despite color, want to be a part of this chorus, would strive to validate themselves within a national family that won't embrace them as one of their own?

And yet other blacks have surrendered to a value system of nihilism--and this may be the worse of the worse, when it comes to "overcoming" the chains that bind, and the shackles that hobble our minds, our hopes, and our aspirations.

This nihilism is pervasive and destructive, both to the self, and to our community.

"WHO is doing this to us BD?"

Those who license liquor stores within the black community (practically one on every corner), facilitate the distribution of illegal drugs (blacks aren't the source of it), and the purchase and possession of firearms (in Compton, California, years ago, railroad cars of guns and ammo were left abandoned on side tracks); those who promote and finance a gang culture, and the music that sprung up from it, debasing further the image of blacks in general and our women in particular.

Take note of what the mainstream culture materially supports in the black community--what things that it advances, and what things that it holds back.

I know: You're still unmoved. It's hard to move a mind already made up. It's easier to move mountains and part seas.

Healthy Hair said...

Lovely style!
You are great at tutorials, SO EASY TO FOLLOW!!
Thank you

heathy hair

nelson peltz said...

Great Post! such a nice blog. This blog is ever amazing. Thanks

Kokoda said...

Great Post!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Its really amazing...........

Adventure