This week, The New York Times' reported that African-American-owned natural hair salons are on the rise. It's an interesting phenomenon, given that these salons have existed for years. But, it brings to light the relationship between those who use the products sold in these shops and those who actually own them. Koreans have historically been the proprietors of stores that sell hair products for African-Americans - a fact not many people know.
Why is this the case? Well, Korean immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1960s and brought South Korea's burgeoning wig industry with them. From there, they expanded into hair-care retail, and began catering an under-served market: African-Americans. Business expanded, and now, a majority of these shops are owned by Koreans and stocked by their home country's wholesalers.
As the number of African-American-owned businesses grow, black shop owners find this traditional system flawed for more than a few reasons, including that people who don't have a certain hair type aren't informed enough to sell products for it. But, there's one issue that's more pressing: As the Times reports, since the wholesalers are Korean, they'll cut deals to other Koreans, but not to African-American retailers - a potentially racist bias that hurts black entrepreneurs' ability to stay afloat.
There are multiple layers to this issue, which the Times unpacks for us. Click over to read: It may make you start questioning exactly where your dollars are going. (