Including race labels on products… what could possibly go wrong?

Following the Black Lives Matter riots, major retail chain Target announced it will, “implement icons online to help our guests find and support Black-owned brands and founders when they shop online.”

Fashion rags and even Food Network are applauding the move. From Allure:

Target’s new feature is a small beige badge showcasing several neutral-colored hearts, which the company is using to label all Black-owned and Black-founded brands on its website. The badge appears in the retailer’s “at a glance” category, located within each product page’s details section. There, Target also features badges to identify products that are clean, vegan, and cruelty-free.

This recent effort is a result of Target’s customer feedback, according to a company statement issued to Allure. “We have carried a number of Black-owned brands for years and continue to listen to guests to ensure we offer a compelling and relevant assortment that supports our guests’ needs,” the statement reads. “Based on what our guests are searching for, we have started to implement icons online to help our guests find and support Black-owned brands and founders when they shop online.”

And Food Network:

Months after the start of Black Lives Matter protests across the country, the work toward racial justice isn’t slowing down. We’re continuing to learn more ways to support the Black community. One of the easiest things we can do? Try and incorporate more Black-owned businesses we love into our everyday lives. Now, Target is making that easier than ever. In the “At a Glance” section under products on their website, the big-box store has added a badge that identifies Black-owned or founded brands, such as Partake Foods Cookies and BLK & Bold Coffee.
This call to action isn’t new — in fact it’s the basis of a historic movement: Buy Black. Its purpose is to raise consumer awareness of Black-owned brands and thus help correct the inherent inequalities many face. For example, COVID-19 didn’t affect every business equally. Between February and April of this year, 41% of Black-owned businesses closed for good, compared to 17% of White-owned businesses. Since BLM began again in earnest, so have the efforts to highlight Black-owned products. Official Black Wall Street, an app that curates Black-owned retailers, has 686K Instagram followers. DoorDash also launched a new initiative to amplify independent Black-owned businesses and Black entrepreneurs in their app.
While the Buy Black movement helps educate shoppers, some entrepreneurs argue that it’s a small bandage over a larger wound. The inequities that permeate the retail industry begin long before products even hit the shelves. For example, Black and Latino entrepreneurs receive only 1% of startup funding in the U.S. In order for a business to make it into a store like Target, where space is at a premium, it needs capital and financial advising, as well as help with marketing and strategy. Converting one-time customers and achieving scale are another hurdle altogether.
Fortunately, there are signs that the playing field is starting to level out. Some Black food entrepreneurs say that more investors have approached them since the nationwide protests against police brutality started. Riana Lynn, the chief executive officer of Journey Foods, has raised $800,000. Along with consumer awareness, these are the long-term changes that are needed to guarantee Black-owned brands are equally represented on the shelf so we can buy – and enjoy – them for a long time to come.

Does anyone learn history anymore? ANYONE?! Don’t answer that. Too depressing.


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