What’s racist, pray tell, about a black woman trying to inspire black girls, to proudly pave the way for future female entrepreneurs?
In a nation founded by white men, that continues to show whites privilege on economic, political and social metrics, it’s a question that seems to defy logic. But there it is, prompted by equally dimwitted questions left by white women bothered by the nerve of one Beatrice Dixon.
As most of the world now knows, Dixon is the owner of the popular plant-based feminine care line called Honey Pot, whose products, by the way, are not only for all women, they have been marketed as such.
Dixon deviated just so from that recently in a Target ad in which she singles out black girls.
“The reason why it’s so important for Honey Pot to do well is so the next black girl that comes up with a great idea, she can have a better opportunity,” she says as the camera rolls.
What happens next boggles the mind.
“Why specify Black?” one reviewer asked.
“I would have considered buying from this company if it hadn’t been for the racist commercial,” wrote another.
It’s hard to say just how many left similar sentiments on the Honey Pot website, but there were enough to start a fire on social media and give Honey Pot an unexpected sales boost.
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Because Dixon didn’t shrink back from the controversy, not only were more women made aware of her product line, those who had seen them in Target stores were suddenly aware they were made by an African American businesswoman.
“It inspired even more women,” said Lamar Tyler, who with his wife, Ronnie Tyler, owns Atlanta-based Traffic, Sales, and Profit, an online community resource for black business owners.
That’s good news.
The protests themselves, however, were obtuse and self-serving, much like the cries that “all lives matter” in response to the legitimate protests over past and present police brutality against people of color, said Susan Peppers-Bates, director of the Africana Studies program at Stetson University.
“This is willful self-delusion to cry that … a black woman entrepreneur wanting to inspire other black girls is racist,” she said. “Structural systems of racial disadvantage that allow hateful people to enact their bias constitute racism. A woman who achieves success in the face of such a system deserves celebrating. That many white women remain oblivious to their own racially based privilege is sad.”
Peppers-Bates said nothing seems to offend white folks and women as much as a black woman in her power, making her own success and following her own vision.
In the astute words of black feminist public intellectual Tressie McMillan Cottom, she said, black women’s wisdom “is only validated by our culture when it serves someone or something else. … When, instead, black women are strong in service of themselves, that same strength, wisdom and wit become evidence of our incompetence” — or, in Ms. Dixon’s case, “racist.”
The criticism Dixon received was nothing new to the Tylers. Because they work solely with black business owners, they’ve had similar questions posted to their Facebook pages.
What if I did this just for white businesses? And why aren’t you doing it for all communities?
“Anytime you’re doing things to intentionally uplift your community, there will be a certain number of people who don’t understand or are against it,” Ronnie Tyler said. “We’re focused on trying to close the gap between black and white business owners, and there are people who have a problem with that.”
According to Lamar Tyler, African American females are the fastest-growing segment of new business owners in the country.
Because black people were intentionally disenfranchised in this country and economically terrorized as in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where white mobs burned black homes and businesses to the ground in 1921, he said African Americans have to be intentional about turning things around.
“That is why we started our website, BlackandMarriedwithKids.com, and our brand, Traffic, Sales, and Profit,” he said. “We are being very intentional about uplifting the black community. People who have a problem with that are either uninformed, tone-deaf, or just want to ignore the impact that this country’s racist policies have on our people.”
The backlash was disappointing on so many levels, but it’s hard not to be proud of Dixon and to be hopeful that more black women will create products and gain value for their accomplishments.
Meanwhile, I’ll just head right on over to Target to see what I can find to buy on Honey Pot shelves. And while I’m at it, I might even throw my purchasing power behind another smart black girl, 13-year-old Gabby Goodwin of Columbia, South Carolina, maker of GaBBY Bows, the first double-face double-snap barrettes that are also in Target stores.
I don’t wear barrettes, but I know another little girl who absolutely loves them.
Traffic, Sales, and Profit LIVE Business Conference
9 a.m.-10 p.m. June 26-27. $299. Westin Hotel Buckhead, 3391 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. trafficsalesandprofit.com.
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