By Carolyn Tisdale
Johnson & Johnson is one of the largest and longest-running family-owned businesses in America.
The company has a vast product line of beauty and health care products geared toward babies and women. However, Johnson & Johnson’s trusted line of baby powder is not so trusted now due to a long list of women who are suing the company for failing to reveal cancer risks associated with using the powder.
One of those plaintiffs was a black woman named Jaqueline Fox (pictured left). Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin wrote an article for Time Magazine about this case.
Tinsley’s article was published this past Wednesday (April 6th). Her riveting opinion-editorial speaks volumes about how companies like Johnson & Johnson have maliciously exploited the health and beauty rituals of black women. Tinsley also sites Ms. Fox’s 2013 deposition where she describes her awful experience with Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder.
Fox talked about how she regularly sprinkled baby powder on her panties prior to wearing them. This is an age-old custom many black women have taken up in America for years. “I was raised up on it,” Fox said. “They was to help you stay fresh and clean. We ladies have to take care of ourselves,” she continued.
Fox later found out that talcum powder is widely believed to be a carcinogen by most medical professionals. This was revealed to her after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013. This traumatic experience drove Fox toward filing a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson after she consulted with legal counsel to discuss her case.
Johnson & Johnson and its supplier Imerys have allegedly known about the cancer risks associated with talcum powder since 1979. However, no warnings have been placed on the packaging of any of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products.
Jaqueline Fox passed finally passed away in October of 2015. However, her family was awarded $72 million dollars by a jury a few months after her death. Fox was the first plaintiff to be awarded in this unfortunate case of malcious corporate malpractice.
Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley’s op-ed ended with some crucial logic in light of this sad story involving the destruction of black women’s lives. She wrote:
“In light of these recent lawsuits, we need to rethink what ‘taking care of ourselves’ means. For black women, cunnicentrism not only stands to celebrate our bodies; It can save our lives.” (Time Magazine, April 2016)