That was my response to the receptionist at the Black owned and operated hair salon & spa when she told me that they were running a special on eyebrow waxing. Those words could have easily been translated into, “I let the Indians handle my brows. We all know that they do it best.” Her face alerted me that I was a little too aggressive with my response. I understood why she could have take offense, after she told me that she was the one that does the eyebrows. She was just notifying me of her special. It was at that moment, I wish I could have told her that my brashness wasn’t her fault.
Let me explain.
I am what some would call pro-Black, conscious, and I’m sure a few other labels that I may or may not agree with. However, I’ve never felt compelled to go out of my way to support Black owned businesses. Why? I’ve always wanted the best quality products along with excellent customer service. I cannot say that I’ve experienced that in most Black owned businesses that I’ve patronized. I know that if I went to a Vietnamese ran nail shop, I’d be satisfied with my pedicure. I’d head to the Chinese side of town for my massages, and I’d grab some Chicken Tikka Masala for lunch after I visit the East Indians for my facial and eyebrow threading. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I’d be willing to pay a little more, or even drive out of the way for exceptional service. I didn’t want to deal with subpar services, bad attitudes, or anything that would make me regret spending my hard earned money.
About 30 minutes after my brief, but uncomfortable eyebrow conversation, I’m being shampooed by my stylist and I remember the words I heard the night before in an interview of Dr. Umar Johnson. He said something to the extent of Black people are always dismissing our problems, and allowing them to be turned into “all peoples” problems. Similar to what is happening with #BlackLivesMatter. Meanwhile, all other races continue to focus on THEIR problems, with little to no help from outside sources. Yet, we lose focus on our problems…which means they rarely get fixed. I understood that “supporting Black businesses” fell under the umbrella of our problems. I started to feel bad for blowing the woman off…so I asked my stylist, “The girl that does the eyebrows, is she good?” She told me that she is GREAT, and she does great makeup & facials as well. I decided to have another conversation with her when I was under the dryer. I smiled, called her over, told her my issues that I was having with my eyebrows. “‘The Indians’ constantly thread them thinner than my instructions, so I’m currently growing them out. Well – I was – but I have a wedding to attend tomorrow, so it’s okay if you take off more than you need to make them look good. I’ll just start growing them back out after this event.”
She took a good long look at my brows, she showed me a few pictures, and asked me a few questions. I was floored…I wasn’t used to this “respect” regarding MY hair on MY face. The Indians barely speak to me while they are threading me. Yet this young Black girl is taking the time to make sure that she fully understands what it is that I’m requesting of her. YES!
She pulls out her makeup bag and asks me do I mind if she shows me a few tricks to keep my brows looking good while they are growing back. Now I’m confused – after all of this kindness, respect and consideration for the hair on MY face…it made me realize the exact opposite is what I’ve received from “The Indians” and I questioned myself on why I went there for so long. Oh…because I look pretty when I leave.
That was no longer enough reason.
For the next twenty minutes, this young Queen used her makeup to show me how to use concealer, an angle brush, a brow pencil and even wrote down the things that I’d need to purchase if I wanted to continue this at home. We then had detailed conversations of some my skin issues and she recommended a few products to me as well. She was a young woman. Young. Black. Professional. I was charged $8.00 for an eyebrow wax, but left with a wealth of knowledge that I hadn’t had before. Having this experience with her on the back end of listening to Dr. Umar’s words was no coincidence. I was constantly told by my peers, “Put the money back into our community.” This is where my ignorance becomes embarrassing. I had no idea what that meant. I don’t even live in “our community”. How does one supporter, like myself, truly benefit “the community”? Consumers are consumers. Profit doesn’t have a race, religion or community base. Let me shop where I want to shop! These were real thoughts and statements that have moved from my brain to my mouth, and landed into the ears of others.
I didn’t realize that my $8.00 could be one of many contributions to a Black family that has children enrolled in private school, or towards the food bill of a single mother to help her stay off of government assistance, or towards the tuition of a woman that works during the day but is working on her Master’s degree at night. This is OUR community. This is where the dollars are NEEDED. The Indians take care of the Indians. The Jews take care of the Jews. The individual nationalities of Africans take care of themselves. Same with the Asians, the Latin Americans. Yet, we Black Americans still lag behind.
Black people in America, something is about to happen. It has already started. I’m not sure how it will end, but it’s time for us to start making changes. Within ourselves and within our communities.
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE IT WILL BENEFIT YOUR OWN. And when you receive outstanding service, TELL THEM HOW OUTSTANDING THEY ARE. Encourage and motivate them to continue to be great.