"Shea Moisture is Cancelled": Racialized Identification in the 2017 Shea Moisture Crisis

2019-08-12T18:10:44Z (GMT) by Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle

In 2017, Shea Moisture, a company that created natural hair products targeted primarily toward Black women, released an online video in which ostensibly white and multiracial women discussed the struggles they encountered in accepting their natural hair. This video led to a public relations crisis for the organization as a result of its perceived exclusion of the organization’s core public--Black women with 4C hair, who arguably experience the highest levels of discrimination on account of their natural hair. This study explored the role of identity and identification in this crisis by conducting a qualitative content analysis of identification types in Black men and women’s online responses to the video. Emotions present in the online posts were used as rhetorical indicators of deidentification, ambivalent identification, identification or disidentification. The findings of this study, contextualized within the socio-political context of the crisis, suggest that responses to Shea Moisture’s video were informed by : its public’s identification with one another, their construal and co-construction of the organization’s identity as a Black business, and their identification with the organization on the basis of this identity. This study reinforces the role played by publics in co-constructing an organization’s identity and reveals the importance of sociopolitical realities and uneven power relations to publics’ identification. This study also introduces the concept of “protected identification” to describe a mode of identification that informed by a socio-political context wherein marginalization exists, comes with a unique set of expectations for the actions of an organization.