Should Your Consumers Know You’re Black?
By Ryan Velez
If you’re Black and in business, the thought may have crossed your mind—if only for a second—to try and hide your race for your benefit. Will it make you more appealing to a white consumer? Veronica Wells, culture editor of Madame Noire, expresses her opinion on why owning our Blackness as business owners is exactly what we need to do.
“You don’t go into business to be broke. The idea is to make money. And if you can collect that green from Black and White folk, that means more for your bottom line. Plus, hiding your racial identity is a tried and true strategy, whether you’re working for yourself or not. I’ve written about a career counselor, a proud Delta, telling me to remove the fact that I was in the National Association of Black Journalists from my resume. Ann Black wrote an extensive piece about why Black business owners choose to hide their racial identities. It’s a thing,” Wells says. However, by doing this, we may be playing into the forces that make the traditional corporate life for minorities hostile in the first place.
“You’re battling forces of both patriarchy and racism. I know one too many Black women who have spent decades coddling and appeasing White folk, at the expense of themselves.
So, the decision to leave the traditional work model and go into business for yourself likely has something to do with the fact that you want to escape that environment. And while I don’t know this particular woman’s experience, her decision to hide her Blackness, was taking that same coddling approach into her work. And that made me sad. Not only for herself but for humanity as well.”
There is also a more practical side to owning your Blackness as well. Studies have shown that Black people, women in particular, are seen as trendsetters. Catering to this audience may mean that you have to wait, but in time, that mainstream clientele follows.
“Essentially, Black folk are the ultimate tastemakers. We push the culture. We define what is and isn’t cool in society, whether it’s music, language or fashion. You need to look no further than a mainstream, White publication to see the styles they’ve co-opted from our culture, often without credit.
As successful as she has been in her professional life, even Oprah had to learn that the people who were going to support her new venture, OWN, were Black folk. While her original programming catered to a mainstream audience, it wasn’t until she brought Black ass Tyler Perry to the network that things started poppin’.
Lisa Price’s brand, Carol’s Daughter, was targeted directly at Black women. And once it grew, with the help of Black celebrity endorsements, she eventually sold it to L’Oreal. Now if you’re talking about getting that White dollar, that’s the way to do it, no?”