Do Korean-Americans control the black hair care market?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

There’s a self-funded documentary causing some buzz online. The documentary, “Black Hair,” is by a white filmmaker named Aron Ranen.

It positions itself as an expose revealing that “Koreans have come to control virtually every aspect of the multi-billion dollar, black hair care industry, from manufacturing to distribution to retail sales, while simultaneously employing tactics to put African-American merchants and wholesalers out of business,” as per this EURWeb.com article. (Thanks to mr guy for the tip!)

I haven’t had a chance to watch the entire thing yet, but it’s definitely an interesting topic. I worry though, that a project like this will only serve to escalate tensions between blacks and Koreans. In fact, one of the black distributors featured in the film was arrested for allegedly attempting to burn down the store of a Korean competitor.

Also, I wonder if the film will attempt to explore why it is that African-Americans don’t control a larger share of the black hair care market. After all, there’s been a long history of entrepreneurship among black women, in particular (think Madame CJ Walker). What happened between then and now? And how were Korean immigrants able to break into this industry when the barriers to entry — in the beginning, at least — must have been quite formidable?

Below is a trailer of the documentary, but you can actually watch the whole thing online on YouTube:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4