By now you know that singer SZA — a former Sephora employee and brand ambassador for Fenty Beauty — was racially profiled at a Sephora store in April. Sephora stores were scheduled to close for one hour on June 5th for “inclusivity” workshops. While many believed the workshops were a direct response to the SZA incident, Sephora has insisted that the workshops were planned some time ago and not directly triggered by the racial profiling incident. Sephora’s one hour closing won’t change the behavior of their employees, nor should it warrant us giving them more of our dollars.
SZA’s racial profiling incident happened as Sephora was planning a new marketing campaign. The campaign will highlight the retailers’s focus on being an all-inclusive cosmetics retailer and its product selection for all skin tones and ages. In other words, Sephora was paving the way to attract more Black dollars. This high profile racial profiling incident might complicate that. Further, the one hour workshops will do little to actually change employee behavior. A recent study found that one hour training sessions actually have little impact on employee behavior. At best, Sephora’s attempts to address the issue are window dressing.
No one can oppress you unless you give them the money to do so. Globally, the cosmetic products market will reach $863 billion by 2024. If Black people accept the hollow gestures of Sephora and other beauty industry players in exchange for our dollars, we are literally handing over billions in capability. Beauty companies, with our dollars, are capable of hiring racists, donating money to anti-Black politicians and causes, ignoring issues of concern to our community or simply being indifferent to Black suffering. On the other hand, if we choose to spend our dollars with Black owned beauty brands, beauty suppliers and other retailers, we are transferring billions in capability into our community. This is the choice we face.
What happened to SZA is nothing new, many of us have probably had a similar experience even today. Racial profiling is so common it is to be expected, for many Black people. But what will we do about it? If we continue to leave the same players in power, through our purchases, nothing changes. The beauty industry is only capable of wrongdoing because we continue to prop it up with our dollars. It’s time for a replacement, not another protest.