L’Oréal: Because Who is worth it?
The phrase “not all White people,” in a conversation about racism is a red herring. Similarly to “not all men” in a conversation about sexism or “not all police officers” in a conversation about police brutality. These “not all -fill in the blank-” statements derail conversations about real issues by arguing that an absolute statement has been made which, by the way, rarely happens. It is assumed that because “not all -fill in the blank-” participate in whatever act of social/systemic oppression that somehow this conversation is now invalid, or at least over.
Perhaps in an attempt to nip that nonsense in the bud before it even started, Munroe Bergdorf, in a Facebook post in the wake of the Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, declares “Yes! ALL White people.” In the since-deleted Facebook post, Bergdorf stated:
“Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people.
Because most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour.
Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggression to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this s***.
Come see me when you realise that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege.
Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth… then we can talk.
Until then stay acting shocked about how the world continues to stay f***** at the hands of your ancestors and your heads that remain buried in the sand with hands over your ears.”
Her post received mixed reviews. Some people encouraged and cosigned Bergdorf’s comments. Some people denounced Bergdorf as racist and called for L’Oreal to fire her. After misleading headlines such as “Bergdorf claims ‘ALL White People’ are racist in Facebook rant” and negative social media outcries to L’Oreal their first transgender model was fired. L’Oreal released the following statement to explain the termination:
“L’Oréal supports diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender, and religion.
The L’Oréal Paris True Match campaign is a representation of these values and we are proud of the diversity of the Ambassadors who represent this campaign.
We believe that the recent comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with those values, and as such we have taken the decision to end the partnership with her.
L’Oréal remains committed to celebrating diversity and breaking down barriers in beauty.”
In summation, a black transgender model, who was selected for a cosmetic giant’s diversity campaign, was fired because passionately talking about systemic racism doesn’t support the previously-mentioned corporation’s definition of diversity and tolerance. Now whether you agree word for word with Bergdorf’s comments or not this situation begs for a few questions to be answered:
Now that diversity is “on trend,” are fashion and cosmetic companies allowed to use women of color and people of color to fill their quota while silencing the voices that come with these bodies?
Models tend to use their platforms to bring attention to the social issues that matter to them. Cara Delevingne used her platform very openly to talk about bisexuality, helping refugees, and body positivity (perhaps more so now that she does not consider herself a model). Are people of color models, who were recently very sparse in mainstream fashion, not allowed to discuss the racism that once limited their exposure? Social issues can only be resolved if people know there is a problem. For example, with more diverse models being cast makeup artists and hair stylists need to carry a wider range of foundations, color palettes, and hair products to the appointments. If models like Leomie Anderson and Naomi Campbell didn’t talk about past experiences of having to do their own hair and makeup due to unprepared stylists, then things do not have the possibility to change. These issues and incidents find their roots in systemic racism, literally, the standard of beauty is defined as white, so why is that particular topic not allowed to be discussed?
Are people of color the only ones at risk for losing their jobs for making inflammatory comments about other races? Earlier this year James Charles tweeted about catching Ebola because he was preparing for a trip to South Africa. CoverGirl not only let Charles keep his endorsements, they DEFENDED him. Furthermore, Jeffree Star currently enjoys his own makeup line and other endorsements despite his very checkered past of racist remarks and flagrant usage of the N-word.
Or does it simply boil down to numbers? Are you not allowed to offend the majority because of perceived consuming power? Was L’Oréal just trying to remain in the good graces of their white customers?
Needless to say, there has been much more discussion about Bergdorf’s remarks about racism and her getting fired than the actual issues at hand -white supremacy and white privilege. How can we move forward into solving these issues when the people who point them out are immediately attacked? How can minorities safely discuss the egregious reality of racism without being accused of race-baiting? Nobody punishes a smoke detector for reacting when there’s smoke, people usually just put out the fire.
Written by Jenae’ Steele
Jenae’ Steele @dtrt_focused1 is a law school graduate born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama. She relocated to New York City to pursue her career. She is interested in fashion, food, music, sports, and social activism.