I love Proctor & Gamble's (P&G) new ad about "the talk" but I still don't find the company worthy of my black dollars. The ad is a brilliant (albeit mild) depiction of the terror black parents are subject to as they try to prepare their children for a world often hostile towards blackness. Creating the ad suggests that P&G sides with black people in our struggle but the checks the company writes says something entirely different. During the 2016 election cycle, P&G donated to House and Senate Republicans almost twice the amount they did to Democrats. Given the current priorities of the GOP, it is fair to question, ad aside, how much P&G truly values black lives.
The value of black dollars has always been evident, even if the value placed on black life has not been. When we could not sit at lunch counters, we were welcome to "go around back" to pick up our food and of course, give our dollars. When we could not sit in the front of the bus we were still taxed to maintain it. Indeed, terrorism from whites was often used to force blacks into submitting our dollars. This was the case during the Greenwood Riot in 1921, when hundreds of black owned businesses were destroyed. Today a more subtle form of terrorism is employed. P&G has chosen to court black dollars with clever ads and a very commendable "My Black is Beautiful" campaign while funding Republicans like Pat Toomey; a man obsessed with militarizing police across the country against the communities they are sworn to protect. It is doubtful that Toomey envisions white citizens on the opposite side of the militarized forces he wishes to arm. P&G is funding Republicans like Michael Burgess, who fantasizes of stripping healthcare from vulnerable people.
This precarious position is not new for black people. Even the most benevolent of institutions often carry some harmful impact and yet we have conceded to them lest we face a more malicious faction. A host of companies now have initiatives that target black communities in some charitable form and yet their business practices undercut their charitable aims. We see it as the city of Philadelphia is taking legal action against Wells Fargo for targeting minority communities with predatory loans or when Bank of America was found to have discriminated against black job applicants for years. These are the same institutions that market to black communities, telling us how much they value our lives in order to compete for our dollars. P&G is but the latest example. This current version of the Republican Party, under the leadership of President Trump, is determined to attack affirmative action, maintain the drug war and strip healthcare from black people and with each check it writes, P&G is complicit.
In the face of these realities, the latest P&G ad rings hollow. While P&G's various outreach initiatives to black communities are commendable, they should not distract black consumers from the bottom line. P&G is concerned about their corporate profits first and foremost, not black lives. The checks are proof. Still, as black people, we wrestle with the reality that few other firms would make an ad so daring about the black experience and that means something to us. We face the same ambivalence with every purchase, college application, and election. P&G's ad shows black parents trying to help their children navigate a world in which blatant hostilities will come. It would have been much harder to produce an ad illustrating the fear of black parents sending their children to a school that offers minority scholarships but where racial tensions abound. It would be much more difficult to show an ad depicting a company that funds an initiative to promote black beauty but also funds aggression against black communities in the form of the Republican Party.
Rather than continuing to support the lesser of two evils, black consumers should look elsewhere. Black unemployment, as long as statistics have been kept, has been twice the rate of whites. That issue is not a top priority for P&G but it is for me and that is why I choose to spend my dollars with black owned companies, who are more likely to employ black people. Further, I do not worry that these companies will make political contributions which will ultimately hinder my freedom as a black man. We have choices and we should exercise them. I love the new P&G ad and they should be applauded for having the courage to make it. That doesn't mean they deserve my dollar.