|[Image description: Model Munroe Bergdorf stands against a chestnut background.]|
Article by Vivian
L’Oreal recently hired Munroe Bergdorf, a black, transgender model, as part of their diversity campaign. Shortly afterwards, the company fired Bergdorf on the basis of her comments on systemic racism in response to the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.
Here is Bergdorf’s initial reaction:
Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people.
Because most of y’all 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-aggressions 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.
In this statement, L’Oreal says that Bergdorf’s comments are at “odds with [their] values”. However, the firing of Bergdorf makes it clear that the company merely wanted Bergdorf as the face of their diversity campaign to make sales. Many companies have done and are continuing to do so, not only through incorporating racial minorities, but other minorities as well, under the guise of promoting diversity. Rainbow capitalism, which is the capitalisation off of LGBT+ Pride, is one example.
In the aforementioned Facebook post, Bergdorf shares her opinion on L’Oreal’s diversity campaign, saying:
If L'Oreal truly wants to offer empowerment to underrepresented women, then they need to acknowledge THE REASON why these women are underrepresented within the industry in the first place. This reason is discrimination - an action which punches down from a place of social privilege. We need to talk about why women of colour were and still are discriminated against within the industry, not just see them as a source of revenue.
L’Oreal, and others who took her words out of context, were offended by her “anti-white” rhetoric. Some publications, such as the Daily Mail and Metro News, accuses the model of calling all white people racist. However, Bergdorf was really commenting on the disposition of white people to be racist due to socialization and privilege.
“When I stated that "all white people are racist", I was addressing that fact that western society as a whole, is a SYSTEM rooted in white supremacy,” stated Bergdorf in a Facebook post explaining her original statement.
Bergdorf’s views touch upon systemic racism and the fact that white privilege is set into society, regardless of whether or not it is visible. Even those who ignore an event such as the rally in Charlottesville demonstrate their racial privilege, which ensures that they are safe from such racial violence against them.
Discrimination and lack of representation remains to be an issue within the beauty industry. The dispute between Munroe Bergdorf and L’Oreal is an example of companies using diversity as a promotion for sales and revenue, without actually supporting it as a real-life social issue.