When a White Company Wears Blackface

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Illustration SHARON GONG

In the wake of marketing snafus like Gucci, H&M, and Katy Perry’s blackface loafers, Black consumers are being reminded that corporations lack cultural sensitivity at the best and are downright racists at the worst. Each of these incidences often comes with a demand for a boycott and focused energy on buying Black.

But what happens when large corporations that are not Black-owned appear to be Black owned and block Black-owned brands from thriving? What happens when white corporations wear Blackface? Because unfortunately, this isn’t a new trend.

Mana Products Inc, founded by Nikos P. Mouyiaris, is currently opposing the trademark for BLK + GRN, an all natural marketplace that curates all natural products created by all Black artisans.

Mana owns Black Opal, which was recently rebranded as BLK/OPL, and they are asserting that the trademark BLK + GRN filed would cause confusion, so they are opposing BLK + GRN’s trademark application. Their argument hinges on the fact that both brands use block letters, both spell Black with the shorthand BLK, and both brands use a symbol followed by three other letters. Despite the fact that we are in different industries (Black Opal is a color cosmetics company and BLK + GRN is a marketplace), despite the fact that several other trademarks exist with the word Black or BLK included, they are still opposing the trademark of BLK + GRN, even with a seemingly thin argument.

It feels as if Black Opal is claiming to own the stylized “BLK” version of Black, despite being very far from being a Black-owned company.

“If you thought Black Opal, Black Radiance or black|Up [were Black-owned], the gag is they’re not actually black-owned. And though they do make products designed for black skin, many black-owned beauty brands have suffered from a lack of visibility.”

Jasley Monia, The Fader

Black Opal’s Instagram feed features nothing but Black women, which would lead you to believe that Black women founded the brand.

Yet the existence of an actual Black-owned, Black-run, and Black-affirming company that supports over 65 Black women-owned brands is at stake. Mana, with an estimated revenue of $284.92 million, can afford the legal fight. However, BLK + GRN can’t. The legal fees could strangle a small start-up company and force us to close our doors.

BLK + GRN was founded with the purpose of connecting Black women with all-natural products without compromising their values, their health, or their standards. We believe firmly in the power of supporting small Black-owned brands, and we exist as the antithesis of the actions of Black Opal, and others like them.

We are pushing against the colonization of the marketplace.

Stand with us by following us on Instagram, liking us on Facebook, Donating to our GoFundMe, or purchasing a product from one of our Black artisans.

Founder of BLK + GRN, blkgrn.com, @blkandgrn on all social

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