In the last few weeks, we have all been called to join the movement for racial justice. Many of us are responding to that call by publicly stating that Black lives matter, participating in demonstrations, and making donations to organizations fighting for racial justice. While all of those steps are positive, I also believe that making small, consistent, and permanent changes in all aspects of our personal lives is critical to the efficacy and longevity of the movement.
To that end, we can change our fashion habits to become antiracist consumers. Simply defined, actions that increase racial disparities are “racist” while actions that reduce such disparities are “antiracist” (for more info, check out the work of Ibram X. Kendi). The fashion universe is plagued with racist ideas and practices. If we strive to be consciously antiracist fashion consumers, we must take the time to assess which of our habits support racism, and then change them. We must also start new habits that are proactively antiracist.
Below, I’ve brainstormed a few antiracist habits that I will be starting or continuing in my engagement with fashion. They apply to people of all identities and are especially relevant for those of us who are active on social media. I hope you consider adopting them in your life, or that you feel inspired to come up with your own.
1) EDUCATE YOURSELF: Invest time in learning about racism in fashion. Apply your new knowledge to critically assess which of your current habits may be perpetuating it.
2) FOLLOW WITH INTENT: Treat your follows (and likes) like your votes and dollars – give them to people and companies that are building the world you want. Carefully vet influencers who might monetarily gain from your attention.
3) BROADEN YOUR INSPO: Find and responsibly consume expressions of style and beauty featuring and created by people of color (POC). The mainstream beauty standard is still dominated by a Eurocentric worldview, so make the extra effort to fill your feed with diverse faces and perspectives.
4) ELEVATE PEOPLE OF COLOR: Share, repost, and comment on style accounts run by POC. Expose your followers to inclusive and antiracist fashion content. If you have a platform with a broad reach, invite POC to create content with you and compensate them fairly.
5) CALL OUT RACISM: Use your voice to raise concerns and demand changes when you read, see, or hear about racist actions committed by brands and influencers. If you have the privilege to do so, consider educating the offender.
6) BUY SECONDHAND: Buy secondhand instead of new. This ensures that your dollars no longer support brands with unethical manufacturing and labor practices that disproportionately harm people of color in the US and globally. When necessary, purchase from sellers with a verified history of equitable, ethical and, sustainable practices.
7) REASSESS AND REVISE: Periodically stop to reflect inwardly and identify which habits you should start, stop, and continue. Accept your own failures and continuously improve. It’s up to you to put in the work required to become an antiracist consumer.
There are many ways that your fashion habits can exacerbate systemic inequity and racial disparities externally, and reinforce racial biases internally. It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s make real, lasting changes TODAY.