The beauty of buying with a conscience

From buying black-owned to not buying from those who don’t support others, why you should consider the products you consume now more than ever.

Image Credit; Instagram @cakefacerj.

Despite all the atrocity that 2020 has thrown at us, one thing you can’t deny is that it has made us more conscious and aware. The handling of Covid-19 exposed every flaw our government has and painted it over a wall for all to see. The Black Lives Matter movement reignited the fight in us, that sometimes gets suppressed by daily life, and equipped us with the power to spot the difference between the performative and the genuine. But what do we do with all this newfound wisdom?  

When any movement occurs, it’s hard to know where to concentrate your support: social media is overdone, people can only donate so much, and there are only so many petitions to sign. To incite real change, you have to hit the oppressors where it hurts, and in this toxic, capitalist society, that place is the wallet: enter buying with a conscience.  

Some of the women who made the Montgomery Bus Boycott possible. Image Credit: Berkeley News. Copyright: John Broderick.

I know this is not a new concept. From the 1955 ‘Montgomery Bus Boycotts’ led by African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement to the 2016, #grabthewallet campaign, boycotts are engrained in our history. Conscious buying means realising the social implications of what you’re buying and making moves to not contribute to that. I’m choosing to adopt my own definition of buying with a conscious because Lord knows I’m no Vegan, by boycotting all the beauty brands that have been exposed during the BLM movement as either performative, racist or donators to the Trump administration. Why beauty brands? Because this is one of the spaces where the hypocrisy to and degradation of Black people is most rampant. Others have chosen to boycott Amazon because for one, Jeff Bezos does not need any more of anyone’s money ever, and two, the number of problematic and unethical shit that Amazon allegedly does, could circle the world twice. 

During the overabundance of posts in support of BLM, someone posted a list of brands, mainly US-based but some that we covet in the UK, that had heavily donated to the Trump administration. In case you need reminding what the Trump administration has to do with BLM, it’s in Trump’s America that allows the killing of men like George Floyd, the injustice of Breonna Taylor, and who takes to twitter to call protestors thugs instead of bringing the real thugs to justice. Feeling lost about what next steps I could take, seeing the post put things into perspective and I knew that this was something I could get behind.

There is some questioning as to how effective a tool is boycotting, but it’s not always about achieving immediate results, it’s about doing what is right. With the endless wealth of information, courtesy of social media and the keyboard warriors who don’t allow any mistake anyone has ever done to go forgotten; there is no excuse not to champion ethical companies to whatever extent you see fit. Why help keep the lights on in the houses of those who wouldn’t hesitate to cut your electricity on Christmas morning?

These same brands that fund Trump are glorified globally. It doesn’t matter where it starts, these big brands have long money, and their reach goes beyond the US borders. I, as an individual, have minimal power in the grand scheme of things, so I’m choosing to exercise whatever power I do have to do what I think is right; along with boycotting McDonald’s because they too were on the list.

List of companies that for the Estee Lauder Company. Image Credit: The Insider

I can’t lie, for those of us who love makeup, this one hurt. The list included; The Estee Lauder Company which owns brands like Smashbox (meh), Too Faced (ouch!), Mac (good riddance), Bobbi Brown (tragedy) and Clinique (RIP to the Chubby Stick). So many products I would once skint myself to get, I am now rushing to finish. To add insult to injury, the number of stories from MAC employees who have reported racism in the store they work for is shocking. Once in MAC Westfield, a makeup artist came up to me and asked if I wanted a colour match. Sure, I thought. When I tell you, this woman picked up the blackest foundation with the reddest undertones and said that was my shade. How did she even get her job? Although these products have saved me from a bad face day (or two), no amount of pore reducing, colour matching, 12-hour-stay make up, is enough for me to have any hand in support of that overgrown, orange baby, or the racism that spreads like toxic waste throughout the world.

I’m talking no MAC, no Two-Faced, no Bobbi Brown, no Loreal; I don’t care how much they’ve apologised. Auf Wiedersehen. Au revoir. Arrivederci. Goodnight, and goodbye. It’s no longer enough for a brand to stock the shade I may need or to have a Black person campaigning for them. These are things that should not be rewarded; it’s something that they should have been doing from day one. We need beauty brands that support Black people and that are owned by Black people, movement or no movement. Brands that don’t tolerate abuse or discrimination in their store. Brands that put as much thought into the shades of their Black consumers as their white ones. Black people exist, we shouldn’t have to go the ends of the earth, settle for the unethical or endure the blatant disregard for our wellbeing, to find a shade that matches our skin, especially when White girls have no problem finding and wearing a shade that doesn’t match theirs.

Kim Kardashian has been known for wearing makeup that intentionally makes her look more racially ambiguous – at times even borderline black face. Image Credit KKW Beauty.

Part of buying consciously for me is my endeavour to support more Black-owned businesses. Buying black-owned isn’t always easy. A lot of the businesses out there are bespoke, niche, expensive and frankly don’t always accommodate life’s basics – a quick pair of socks, or everyday groceries, but that’s only a percentage of where our money goes. Especially for us 20-something-year-olds who have enough dispensable income to spend an average of £7 a day on coffee in a pre-COVID-19 world, we can afford to pay a little extra for a fragranced candle, or house plant from a business that is trying to change the game.  

I know I am not the most conscious person out there. I eat meat. I forget to recycle. I order from Amazon. Unacceptable to some my behaviour maybe, but it’s a learning curve, and I’ll get there. Right now, however, I am choosing my fight. My fight right now is that my people are being murdered, having to endure racial profiling, hate, cultural appropriation, tokenism, and discrimination, daily. We were blamed for a pandemic we didn’t start while simultaneously being most affected by it. We make allowances for cultures and groups that don’t make allowances for us, and we are all tired.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for long term commitments I can make that in some small way doesn’t contribute to the perpetuation of a narrative that states you can do what you want to us and we will still buy your products, be your token and your scapegoat.

For a list of brands who spoke up and took action in solidarity with BLM:

https://www.dazeddigital.com/beauty/head/article/49435/1/an-ongoing-list-of-beauty-brands-who-have-donated-to-fight-racism

Author: Sincerely, Saskia

I have a BA in Creative Writing and Journalism and an MA in Publishing. I'm a freelance contributor for VoiceMagUK, living in London, who writes about all aspects of our society from my own standpoint.

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