Essence Affirmative Action?

Essence Magazine Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murry has been fending off an avalanche of complaints because she hired a White fashion editor, Elliana Placas, leading many to believe that the magazine has “sold out,” ignoring the fact that the fashion industry excludes Blacks and other minorities.  It’s also important to note that Essence is pretty much the only significant magazine catering to Black women.

However, Essence is owned by Time Warner, and I suspect that Burt-Murry’s motivation may, in part, have been to avoid any backlash from upper management and others because of the hostile “conservative” atmosphere against Black Americans right now.  She may also simply be the type of Black person that, like many White Americans, wrongly doesn’t “see” race and believes in a post racial America. But I believe she has to know better?

Michaela Angela Davis – a former editor a Vibe, Honey and Essence – wrote on Facebook:  “It’s with a heavy heart I’ve learned that Essence magazine has engaged a White fashion director . . . the fashion industry has historically been so hostile to Black people – especially women . . . .”

I agree with her, however, my main issue is that a White fashion editor doesn’t know what it’s like to be Black, and I doubt that she has done any significant personal introspection to help her understand the Black experience beyond working around a group of Black coworkers at Essence.  She hasn’t grown up with Cousin Ty fresh “out the joint,” and I know she hasn’t been stopped by the police because she’s Black, or called a Nigger from a high-up college dorm window, and so on.  These kind of experiences stay deep down your soul and are revealed through your work.

But, ultimately, the question to Black women, to Black people, is when are we going to stop allowing mainstream industries to stop ghettoizing us (and taking our money) and, in the words of Public Enemy’s Chuck D, “shut ‘em down.”


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