When we hear that big brands doing anything for the month of February in "honor" of our glorious, rich and full history, we let out a big, collective sigh. Well, EBONY fam, this is another one of those times.
It was announced this week that Bath & Body Works released a collection of Black History Month inspired products. While they aren't brand new products that the brand is pushing out—these are items and scents that have already been created, we can assume that the decision to include these in the BHM roll out must be indicative of a certain Black History Month nostalgia, embodying the essence of this revered heritage month, right?
On their website, these products are listed as being "limited edition" although the regular version of these items, sans kente cloth, are also available for a cheaper price. The products included in this lineup are a coconut sandalwood scented candle labeled "Unity", teakwood body spray labeled "Empowered", and a"champagne toast" body cream labeled "Confident".
The lack of consideration for cultural sensitivity is telling.
In a post on Instagram, the bath shop brand stated that proceeds from the items sold this month would benefit the National Urban League.
It is true that many Black folks can be satisfied with Bath & Body Works' recent display of support and empathy for the Black community. That's their prerogative. But what does it actually do for us in the long term?
While, yes, it is a nice gesture that the brand provided support to Black organizations who work for the greater good of our community. And, it's even nice that they tapped artists of color to create the prints in use on the products. However, for the brand to only publicly show their support for our community one period during the year is a problem.
Over the past two years, corporate brands have tricked themselves into believing that they have made a genuine effort in the Black community's struggle for equity through black squares and statements riddled with trendy buzzwords layered over minimalist graphic designs. The impact of DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) are now only validated on the ROI (return on investment) that corporate entities are able to receive in turn. But that's quite literally not enough. It's not authentic enough.
These efforts at appeasement do not stop attempts at Black voter suppression or discrimination on account of physical attributes like hair. They definitely do not halt unlawful killings of Black bodies at the hands of law enforcement, leading to cases that often never see the light of true justice and accountability.
Second, these brands should know by now that if it's one thing that is going to happen, Black folks in these social media streets are not going to let just anything slide. Since this announcement on social media, Bath and Body Works' comments section has been in shambles and their name has been lit up across Twitter.
So whether you choose to accept or find no qualms with this recent display or decide to speak out and refuse to support, it must be understood that the mark was missed in a major way. Above all, this is simply a demonstration of something we did not ask for. It is, however, a reminder to #BuyBlack and support small Black businesses who make candles, whipped lotions and scents as well.
Happy Black History Month!