“May you live in interesting times”, says the curse. Well, maybe interesting times are a curse wrapped in a blessing, because 2020 is certainly the most “interesting” year of my life thus far…and it’s created some uncomfortable, but much needed, growth.
After the death of my mom in Jan 2019, I truly thought 2020 would be “my year” – a year of positive change, of success, of movement…and it is all those things and more, but in different ways I never could have conceived.
The pandemic has changed my perspective; I have found greater satisfaction in the “small things” – I sit outside in our private backyard (a small swath of concrete ringed by a faded yellow warped wooden fence and the first one my husband & I have had together) every day, just listening to the birds and city noises, feeling the heat of the sun or a soft breeze, watching the clouds roll by and burn up in the sun. I feel extraordinarily fortunate for all the good I have in my life; finally being in a comfortable home with adequate space, having my husband be able to work from home, two snuggly pups, my dad being cared for by his sister and not having to stress every day about his needs…I need to acknowledge how good I have it and just how lucky I am.
The Black Lives Matter movement, this racial revolution that’s unfolding…it has changed my perspective as well. For too long I have been idle; feeling confident knowing “I’m not racist” while I exist in a system that benefits me solely based on my skin color. But just because I’ve never said the “N word” or clutched my purse when a Black person is next to me doesn’t mean that I don’t still benefit from the racism that imbues everything in our country.
As I’m sure you’ve seen, a myriad of brands have come forward in a variety of ways to support Black Lives Matter, the protests, and Black people in general. Some brands have admitted their failings, their corporate homogeneity, their “colorblindness” – and they have set forth action plans on how they plan to address these issues. Other brands have made vague apologies, avoiding saying “Black Lives Matter,” trying to not rile up their racist customers while still attempting to pacify progressives – but that softness is not appreciated. You cannot quietly be anti-racist.
A few months ago I took a step back to think about where I’m spending my money, what companies and brands I’m choosing to support by buying from them. Can I, in all good conscious, continue to buy from brands who don’t even make a statement? What about ones who acknowledge what’s going on without actually saying “Black Lives Matter”?
What about the brands that I’ve loved for years being brought into the light and all their cracks showing? A complete lack of Black leadership, or even any Black employees at all that are not relegated to only customer service or store associate jobs? (Not knocking those jobs, but when a company keeps Black people stagnant in service jobs that prevent them from having any real power, it sends a message.)
What about the companies that seem to only employ white-presenting people and have conferences filled with pale faces? What about companies that ask Black Queer influencers to work unpaid and use coded words for Black people they profile in their stores? What about the companies that repeatedly steal from independent designers? What about the brands that use slave labor, don’t pay workers a living wage, or keep workers in unhuman conditions? What about companies that have shown a lack of care during the pandemic by having them work in unsafe environments? Or companies that held mass layoffs on a phone call? Or companies that have just been quietly (or loudly) racist?
This all has another level to it, as I am not just another consumer in a capitalist country – I am a blogger/influencer at the end of the day too. In the past I’ve worked with some of the above mentioned brands, and I’ve had people reach out to me and ask if I’m worried they won’t work with me again.
But do I even want to work with them again?
Until vast improvements are made, the answer is no. I am willing to forgo potential income or products from them (cos lets be honest, all these brands will try to get you to do shit for free product first), until they actually evolve and realize that they need Black and POC employees in corporate decision-making positions (and not just for Diversity & Inclusion). It’s more than adding a seat or two to the table – they need to build a new table.
Before they get my money, they need to put their money where their mouth is and actually DO the work – educate themselves, remove problematic people from the company, diversify their hiring, focus on being inclusive, be transparent with their current numbers so we can hold them accountable…there’s a lot of work to be done, but it NEEDS to be done.
Going forward, I plan to focus my spending and support on Black-owned businesses, small businesses, and local businesses. I want to support independent designers who I know truly appreciate every purchase, I want to know my money is helping improve someone’s life and not just a drop in the bucket of some billionaire. I want to know the places I purchase from have similar ethics and morals to me (pro-Black, pro-diversity, pro-inclusivity, pro-women, pro-LGBTQI+, anti-racist, anti-trump, anti-white supremacy), and when possible, sustainable and environmentally-friendly as well.
I recognize that my ability to turn down work or shop a sustainable brand is a privilege in its own. But we all have a decision to make with this – we all have different amounts of time we can devote to researching ethical brands, to know who our money is supporting. We have different incomes and abilities to be more particular on where we shop. I am not here to pass judgement on what anyone else chooses to do…
But like Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I know better. I am going to try my best to do better.
So what are the next steps? Well, I am planning to focus my fashion, beauty, and lifestyle coverage on brands and companies that I feel are ethical.
Before I buy from/promote/work with any brands going forward, I will do my own leg work to see how they have supported BLM – I want to know if and where they donated, if they are providing education and support for their employees, if they spoke up on social media, and their percentage of Black and POC employees in corporate. I want to know where their garments are made and who is making them. I want to know if they’re sustainable, and what that means to them. I want to know how they support(ed) their employees during COVID-19. And when any PR person or brand pitches me, I will be asking them all these questions and more.
I hope to be able to share all those facts with any product or brand I write about going forward. I also want to share any updates – good or bad – that might affect whether you (or I) would be willing to support a brand. I think it’s important to acknowledge growth and improvement, just as it’s important to know if a company is backsliding on promises or being hypocritical. I want to give companies a chance to evolve, and to hold them accountable for the initiatives they are promoting – words mean nothing without action.
I would love to hear from you – what brands do you shop that are ethical and/or sustainable? (Can be anything, does not have to be only fashion.) What brands are you avoiding? Tell me in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org