Spas and the Issue of Race Relations

11/14/2012 07:07 pm ET | Updated Jan 14, 2013

The issue of race relations is sticky and a conversation that's still waiting to be had. I know that many African-Americans and whites alike were disappointed over the missed opportunities during the last four years to begin the discussion.

There exists in our country a serious divide; we are scared to talk to each other.

So how does this impact the spa industry?

Consider that our primary function as therapists is to make folks feel comfortable, determine what is best for their physical and mental wellbeing and then provide them with products for home use to continue the feel-good environment experienced at the spa. As workers our goal is to build a client base and sell products which generate revenue.

But if I am still experiencing requests from other spa employees to touch my locks, if every time I open my mouth to speak people become quiet as though they are on a whale watch, then what the heck are other people of color experiencing in the treatment rooms?

The majority of esthetic (skin care) schools do not even teach how to care for ethnic skin. Thus begins the disenfranchisement of brown people (Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and bi-racial)in an industry that by its very nature is supposed to be empathetic and nurturing. And if interaction with people of color is not a constant in the spa worker's life away from work, if they have no ethnic friends or are like so many people who gather most of their information from watching television or videos or reading news reports where people of color are constantly misrepresented, how would this impact their ability to deliver a quality, equal service?

This notion that top decision-makers at leading hotels have of not needing ethnic skin care training is a fantasy and I strongly beg to differ. Ethnic skin training is about engagement, not just physical differences. In the not too distant future some hotelier or spa company will see the light, and begin preparing their technicians for the tidal wave of ethnicity that is coming. And in the process the existing spas will also begin to lose many of their regular customers as women recognize that they are spending their money at businesses with a conservative exclusionary viewpoint. Right now, at this time in history, that mindset ain't cool. It's really about moving forward.