The Heavy Price Black Women Pay for Luxury

by Xara Aziz
Voiced by Amazon Polly

It has been deemed the Black woman’s luxury tax: a term used to describe the additional cost a Black woman must pay for a brand’s anti-Black history.

This is according to a compelling new piece in Andscape which reveals how White supremacy has hindered the plight of Black people since the beginning of America’s history. Mark-Evan Blackman, chair of the fashion design department at the State University of New York, Korea, refers to this as a “citizen component.” 

“That’s a calculation that people of color, and largely women of color, have to make regularly,” Blackman told Andscape. “Every other customer purchasing that garment, that piece, doesn’t have to worry about anything other than their bottom line.

The bottom line, he added, that Black people face “include socioeconomic levels, the way your cousin was treated in the store when he walked in, lack of service, a snub. Our bottom line has to quickly calculate: ‘Is this what I want to do?’ realizing that we also want to look good. The pull of what got us into the store hasn’t diminished, although all these other factors might contribute to our decision.”

It has led Black women in limbo and wondering whether it’s worth obtaining a high-status item even despite the brand’s racial past.

History tells us racism in the luxury world was no secret. From Brook Brothers (which profited from clothing slaves) to Coco Chanel (who was a Nazi informant) and Daimler AG of Mercedes-Benz (which used forced labor to build cars for the German military), scores of high-end brands have benefitted off of racial intolerance, and some argue there are still miscellanies of racism in today’s world of luxury.

“Look at Balenciaga right now,” said Chanel Tyler, a global lead for creator partnerships at YouTube. “They are being scrutinized in the media for making some very poor decisions and clearly not fully understanding the impact of what was happening.”

She says she has chosen to shop where she can get the best deal and only supports brands that support her and her community – even though it may not be as simple as it sounds.

She further added that although it may be harder for Black women to fit in today’s world of luxury, she recognizes the power they play in making the brand’s bottom line.

“The Black luxury consumer is a significant consumer of luxury brands,” said Tyler. “We see that in all of the different culture genres that we propel. Black consumers spend a lot of their money on luxury goods. It’s just like always making sure that you are comfortable giving your money to this brand … Do you feel good about that purchase?”

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