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Monday, January 23, 2006

Just let your Soul Glo...

I was in the grocery store the other day, and I noticed a section of toiletry-type products marked "Ethnic HBC." I assume HBC means "hair and beauty care," or something like that. The products were all targeted at the beauty concerns of black folks, and they bore photographs of attractive black people. Black guys tend to get razor bumps from shaving, so companies offer special lotions and shaving creams to combat that problem. Black folks tend to have coarse, kinky hair, which requires different care than the straight or curly hair generally found on people of other races. That's all fine with me. We're all different, and we have different needs in beauty products. Look at soap: some people have oily skin, some have very dry skin, some are allergic to fragrances, some break out very easily. These are biological differences, and different products are available to address them. My problem is with the use of the word "ethnic." Words mean things, and the grocery chain is stripping this word of its proper meaning. Everyone is ethnic. Here's how Merriam-Webster defines the word:
of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background
And that's the second definition, which I think is more commonly used. The first definition is actually pretty insulting:
So, instead of using "Black Hair Care" or "African-American Beauty Products," the company opted instead to say something that could be interpreted as "Heathen Beauty Products" or "Uncivilized Hair Care." Yikes. Of course, the company wasn't trying to say that. It just refused to say "Black" or "African-American," probably to avoid appearing divisive or segregationist. Instead, it's stuck saying something which is meaningless at best, and horribly racist at worst. And yet, the company is inconsistent in its practice. The same store has a section, stocked with foods from Mexico. It's got Goya products, hot peppers, and even candles with Catholic saints on them. This section is labeled "Hispanic." I find it interesting that one ethnic minority can be marketed to explicitly and openly, while another ethnic minority is marketed to only by use of a code word.


At 1/23/2006 10:16 PM, Anonymous hamous said...

I know what you mean Matt. I hate the new pc phrase: "people of color". What am I? Transparent?

At 2/16/2006 11:59 PM, Blogger Amanady said...

I am in the Men Skin Care business, and I too hate the categories.


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