The Culture

Blackness is on display in Target, and I have so many feelings about it.

Blackness is on display at Target! The retail giant has an assortment of items dedicated to Black History Month.

Now, if Target would start carrying Louisiana Hot Sauce and the big jars of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, we’d be set.

Blackness is on display in Target. Literally.

To commemorate Black History Month, the department store has dedicated a section filled with merchandise celebrating Blackness and supporting Black artists and entrepreneurs. I was impressed by the collection of items you can wear, read, write in, watch, and listen to. I’m not sure how long Target has done this, but it’s my first time to see the display in my local store.

Celebrate Black History at Target
Target is showin’ out.

The Stuff

“Embrace your roots,” “SOUL,” “Black is the new black,” and other Afrocentric messages and designs are emblazoned on clothing and an assortment of merchandise. A popular design that stacks the capped first names of Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, and Frederick Douglass is available on T-shirts of various sizes, baby bodysuits, a soy candle, and a spiral-bound notebook.

Black History Month soy candles at Target
I didn’t take a whiff of these soy candles, but the flavors shown here are lavender, patchouli and amber tonka bean.

I couldn’t pass up the baby bodysuits. I stocked up on onesies in different sizes and designs so my three-month-old will have Black-and-proud outfits to wear throughout his infancy.

Baby bodysuits -

Handcrafted headwraps from Tropic Isle Living, founded by Lois Reid-Hines, are available in a few different colors and designs.

Tropic Isle Living Headwraps at Target
Limited-edition headwraps from Tropic Isle Living’s Island Love Collection are available at Target during Black History Month.

Sample-sized products from the following beauty brands founded and/or owned by Black entrepreneurs were packaged into two hair-care and skin-care kits creatively titled “Maxing & Relaxing” and “Recline and Unwind”:

Zandra Beauty, founded by 18-year-old entrepreneur Zandra Azariah Cunningham, offers a “Treat Yo Self!” gift box at Target complete with balm, hand/body lotion, and an exfoliating sugar scrub.

Black History Month display at Target
Decorative and informative cardboard boxes positioned throughout the Black History Month display highlighted Black founders of beauty brands, including this one featuring Richelieu Dennis and SheaMoisture. Books by Black authors, including Ta-Nehisi Coates and bell hooks, were available to purchase.

American Greetings has an eye-catching line of “Our Voices” greeting cards, rivaling Hallmark’s long-standing Mahogany collection.

African-American greeting cards and notebooks at Target
American Greetings has an “Our Voices” line of Black greeting cards at Target. This one features a quotation from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” There are also notebooks available with Afrocentric designs.

A handful of books, movies, and albums are grouped in the Black History Month section. Best-selling records from Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin are available to purchase on vinyl. You’ll also find DVDs of popular Black films Coming to America, Girls Trip, Moonlight, Black Panther, and Loving.

Grace Byers’ I Am Enough, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, bell hooks’ All About Love: New Visions, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, Gabrielle Union’s We’re Going to Need More Wine, and other titles by Black authors were among the books showcased in the Black History Month display.

The Juxtaposition of Feeling Seen and Feeling Hoodwinked

Lest this sound like an advertisement for Target (it isn’t), I had mixed feelings about the Black History Month display once the initial shock and awe subsided.

I thought about how one of the country’s largest retailers is capitalizing off the “coolness” of Blackness and how our culture is being commodified in the name of Black History Month.

For years, Black-owned online shops like Tees in the Trap have been selling trendy apparel and home goods inspired by “pop culture, hip hop, and everyday life.” When I spend money with these independent retailers, my purchase affects the small-business owner’s bottom line more directly. Target would be fine whether or not I spent $40 on Afrocentric baby onesies. But I was definitely sucked in and wanted to buy all the things.

Also, when I support small, Black-owned retailers, I feel like I’m sharing in something only Black folks are privy to. Seeing the Black History Month display at Target left me feeling seen while also feeling a little exposed.

Nothing for sale would be considered a Blacks-only top secret, but I often have this desire to keep certain things close to the community. Part of that is because I’m not used to seeing stuff specifically for us being so readily available. I don’t know if I’m ready to see white people around town rocking a “SOUL” T-shirt or an “Embrace your roots” jean jacket.

It’s a feeling that likely comes from constantly being one of few Black people in spaces outside of my home and church when I was coming of age. Growing up, there were things we didn’t talk about with white folks. Although some of this hesitation may have come out of internalized anti-Blackness and fear of being “other,” a lot of it is just wanting to hold closely to what is ours.

For example, my family was floored when Chris Rock’s Good Hair came out. We did not like the idea of white people knowing what went on in our beauty salons. It was as if he was putting our business out in the street by making a documentary about Black women’s hair, a part of us that already attracted the curious hands of our white classmates when we were younger.

On the flip side, when an episode of Black-ish used “kitchen” to describe the hair at the nape of one’s neck, I was equal parts excited about sharing this aspect of our Black experience with a larger audience and a little dismayed about the possibility that the term would no longer belong to us exclusively. It was less about embarrassment and more about losing the intimacy that comes with being Black in America.

Overall, I’m here for Target’s Black History Month display. Notwithstanding the importance of supporting small businesses, Target featured several brands founded by Black entrepreneurs, putting their products in front of more customers.

The retailer also chose to commemorate Black History Month in my suburban store, not only in cities with majority-Black populations. My sister mentioned wanting to spend money on the Black History Month merchandise to show Target’s corporate office that “we outchea”; that Black people living in our Southern, predominately white small city are excited to see Blackness on display.

I, for one, did my part. I just might go back to get that utensil pouch and spiral-bound notebook. And maybe one of those hair-care and skin-care kits. For the culture.

Now, if Target would start carrying Louisiana Hot Sauce and the big jars of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, we’d be set.

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