Renowned pharmaceutical brand Johnson & Johnson is filing for bankruptcy in order to prepare for an impending settlement. The company agreed to pay $8.9 billion dollars to thousands upon thousands of lawsuits that claim that its talcum powder utilized cancer-causing agents. This is a major result of a legal battle that has lasted for more than 10 years over the contamination of the powder with asbestos, a carcinogen.
In 2021, The National Council of Negro Women and their attorneys—including civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump—filed a complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey about the Johnson & Johnson's “deceptive marketing" used to lure Black women into using its talc powder.
Over the past few years—even in recent months—more information has come out about the ways in which the medical and beauty industry discount Black women and give them deplorable treatment. Some of the mistreatment that I speak of has come in the form of products that knowingly cause harm that companies sell to Black women as primary targets. Case in point, hair relaxers, a product used disproportionately by Black women, have been linked to several health issues including early puberty, uterine fibroids and cancer. In November 2022, Teresa Spencer filed a lawsuit against popular hair care brands Motions and Olive Oil for the selling of their hair straighteners which she believed were a major contributor to her uterine fibroid diagnosis.
As we know, this the mistreatment of Black women is not new, but it's about time Black women stood up for themselves when it comes to protection against larger establishments.
In a world that sees Black women as inherently subordinate, they are always seeking to prove themselves as worthy of existing and thriving. Why is it that Black women are always targeted to receive the shortest end of the stick? Like anyone else, all Black women are deserving of quality that doesn't put our health or livelihoods at risk.
As a result of the bankruptcy, Johnson & Johnson would be able to pay out the $8.9 billion trust to those included in the lawsuits. It would be paid out over the course of 25 years. Approximately 70,000 plaintiffs were involved in the case, a large number of them were Black women. The court is currently weighing out the acceptance of the bankruptcy filing by the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, LTL Management.
In a quote to the New York Times, Jason Itkin, whose law firm is handling a large chunk of the cases, shared that "Even though $8.9 billion sounds like a lot of money, when you spread it out it comes out to not very much at all for the people who suffered.”
A sentiment known all too well, Black women seldom get the justice they so righteously deserve. No matter how many systems created for self-protection or steps taken to be seen equivocally in the eyes of society, they still are left immensely vulnerable in so many ways. This is literally why #SayHerName was created. Nevertheless, we can only hope that Black women continue to speak out and demand the best when it comes to their wellbeing.