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Vogue Brazil Style Director Resigns After Hosting A “Slavery” Party

Earlier this year, Donata Meirelles, the long-time style director of Vogue Brazil, resigned from her top spot after images floated around the Internet of her opulent, and very racist, 50th birthday bash.

The photos showed Meirelles, who served in the position for 7 years, seated on an extravagant chair while donning an elaborate pink dress and gold jewelry. Beside her were two Black women dressed in all white.

If you’re familiar with Brazil’s colonial history, the images will evoke master-slave portraits. In these photos, white Brazilian slave-owners sat on a cadeira da sinhá, an ornate chair similar to the one Meirelles was seated on, as enslaved Africans stood alongside them.

The February 8 birthday celebration, which has since been called a slavery-themed party, received a lot of backlash online.

Instagram user Roberto Sakiyama said, “The photo clearly and unfortunately refers to a Brazil of autocracy and slavery, where Black people were serving and white people tended to.” Another user named Rita Batista highlighted the undeniable resemblance between Meirelles’s photo and a portrait of a Sinhá, a female slave-owner, with two house slaves.

@ritabatista / Instagram

Meirelles responded to the reprisal the next day. According to her, the party was not themed. Rather, the celebration took place in the state of Bahia, where Afro-Brazilian culture thrives and it is common to see women there wearing traditional white garbs on Fridays, the same day of the party. She also said she was sitting on an Afro-Brazilian religion candomblé, not a master’s chair.

Still, Meirelles, who ultimately resigned, said in a post in Portuguese, “if we caused different impressions than these, I am sorry.”

Regardless if Meirelles intended to or not, some Black feminist advocates in Brazil believe her photos glamourize white supremacy and racial inequality in the South American country.

“The black women were used as objects to create an exotic scene,” Stephanie Ribeiro, who writes the column #BlackGirlMagic in the Brazilian edition of Marie Claire, told the Guardian. “It’s reminiscent of colonialism and romanticizes those times. She was recreating the image where whites are superior and blacks are dehumanized.”

More enslaved Africans were forcibly shipped to Brazil than any other country in the world. In fact, of the 10.7 million Africans who survived the grisly voyage across the Atlantic between 1525 and 1866, an estimated 4.9 million went to Brazil, where slavery wasn’t abolished until 1888. In comparison, about 388,000 arrived in North America.

While more than half of Brazil’s population identifies as Black or mixed race, and the country is unmistakably multiracial, the legacy of this brutal history continues through racialized violence, discrimination, economic inequity and media stereotypes.

Vogue Brazil responded to the party and its backlash in a statement.

@voguebrasil / Instagram

“Regarding … Donata Meirelles’ 50-year party, Vogue Brasil deeply regrets what happened and hopes that the debate generated will serve as a learning experience.”

The publication claims it did not take the feedback lightly and has plans to “broaden the voices within the team and create, on a permanent basis, a forum formed by activists and scholars who will help define content and images that combat these inequalities.”

However, this is not the first time any of the Vogue brands has been accused of racism.

According to Complex, between 1892, when Vogue magazine started, and 2012, only 14 of its 1,416 covers were of people of color. As if that alone wasn’t bad enough, oftentimes when Black and brown people are portrayed it’s done in a racist manner. In 2008, for example, LeBron James shared the cover with white Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen. The star basketball player was styled to appear like King Kong, a dangerous animal, in the shoot. In 2011, Italian Vogue ran a piece on hoop earrings that were compared to the jewelry of enslaved Africans. The editors’ even titled the article “Slave Earrings.” The following year, the same publication published a story called “Haute Mess” that made fun of Black and Latina style and aesthetics as “ghetto.”

Racism is not uncommon in the fashion industry, and Vogue Brazil’s former style director’s party and photos are among the latest examples.

Read: This Racist Ad By Dove Is The Most Uncomfortable Thing You’re Gonna See Today

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Racist Woman’s Rant Wishes Trump Deportation On A Boricua Who Was Just Minding Her Own Business

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Racist Woman’s Rant Wishes Trump Deportation On A Boricua Who Was Just Minding Her Own Business

Before Trump was president, many opponents of the man swore that electing a person with a history of racist behavior would encourage closeted bigots to be more vocal with their hate. This claim has proved to be true basically time and time again in the years since he was elected on nearly a weekly basis. Attacks on Muslim and Latinx people have been sanctioned by government policies but we have also seen disturbingly bigoted behavior from average citizens. Hate crimes have skyrocketed since 2016 and viral videos of racist attacks and abuse are commonplace on the internet.

The latest act of xenophobia comes from Trump’s July Twitter tantrum against Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow freshmen congresswomen. In it, the president insisted that those who don’t like how America currently works should just leave. It’s a command most Black and brown people have heard at least once in their lives and it again invites undercover racists to be bold enough to let their hatred for minorities show. 

One of the latest examples of the freedom racists feel is a video coming out of Abington, Pennsylvania that shows a white woman accosting a Puerto Rican woman at a grocery store. 

Twitter / @jftaveria1993

On June 30th, 2019, Johanny Santana was standing in line at the grocery store when a child came into the line to ask his grandfather a question. The child and grandfather spoke Spanish to each other and this caused a white woman who was also in line to cuss at the boy. Hearing this, Santana started recording with her phone to capture any further encounters. The boy left and came back, only to have another woman object. This is when Santana stepped in and changed the focus to her. 

In a video posted to Facebook, Santana asks the other woman if she had a problem with the individuals speaking Spanish after the white woman loudly complains, “Any century now.” The White woman then told Santana, “Can you stop talking to me? You’re a p*ta.” After Santana told the woman not to say that word, she responded again, repeating, “You’re a p*ta.”

It’s then that the altercation turned overtly racist. 

Twitter / @CasaDeDre

The woman launched into a bigoted diatribe aimed at Santana. In the video, she can be heard saying: 

“You shouldn’t be in this country. I hope Trump deports you. I was born here, you don’t belong here, go back to your own country. You don’t belong here, you came here illegally. You should be deported.” 

The unidentified white woman then accused Santana of using “drug money” to buy her groceries. In the video, she is seen flashing cash at the Boricua and telling her that her money was legal, unlike what Santana was using. 

In the video, Santana can be heard retaliating with her own insults.

Facebook / @CaleroRaquel

In response to her own words, Santana told NBC News that she felt ashamed and powerless.

“I regret it because I didn’t want to tell her that. I felt powerless because I didn’t speak English well enough to be able to properly respond to her.”  

The community that Santana lives in only has a population of 55,310 according to the 2010 Census. Of that population, almost 80% is white and only 3% of residents are Latinx. According to the Pew Research Center, Puerto Ricans are the second-largest Latinx group in the United States. Since Puerto Rico is a United States territory, citizens of the island — including Santana — are also US citizens. Still, even if they weren’t, this attack would remain grossly racist. 

Twitter reacted with outrage in response to yet another recorded attack on people of color by racists. 

Twitter / @sahluwal

Twitter users were quick to share the video thousands of times online. Many pointed out how ridiculous the woman was and how quick she was to jump into racists insults — as if she had them queued up and ready to rip. Others called on the social media site to do its thing and expose the woman pictured in the video. She is still unidentified as of now but one thing remains clear: There are far more people who feel this way in our nation than most are willing to admit. Until racists are exposed and called out in every community, racism will continue to be an ugly part of American life. 

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Chanel Hires a White Person as Their New Head of Diversity and Inclusion to “Amplify Voices Of Colour” Because Of Course They Have

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Chanel Hires a White Person as Their New Head of Diversity and Inclusion to “Amplify Voices Of Colour” Because Of Course They Have

@chanelofficial / Instagram

Like many major institutions, the Fashion Industry has been accused in the past of gatekeeping and breeding a lack of diversity in its designers, models, and photographers. This lack of variety in the stories told by the industry has resulted in more than a few controversies in the recent past for some of the biggest names in fashion.

Brands like Gucci, Prada, and H&M have all seen major backlash after featuring products that were more than a little racist. Back in December of 2018, it was Prada with their Golliwog-like figures displayed in the windows of their SoHo boutique. Then there was H&M and their online page featuring a young, black child wearing a shirt that had the word monkey on it. Less than a month later it was Gucci in February 2019, with their sweater that — when pulled up — had the dark features and red lips of a blackface character.

These controversies caused more than a little public outcry when they happened. Either because of these instances or because they realized it was way past time, all three of these company’s created some sort of position to encourage diversity and inclusion in their organizations.

Now, it seems that Chanel has done the same but their hire has a major difference than others in the industry.

Twitter / @BoF

Earlier this month, Fiona Pargeter — who previously held the same position at Swiss bank UBS — joined Chanel as their Head of Diversity and Inclusion. Though Pargeter obviously comes with previous experience, she also lacks something that seems important in an inclusion director. Namely, she isn’t a member of one of the marginalized communities Chanel hopes to further incorporate.

According to a post on VOGUE, the role was created as “a sign of Chanel’s commitment and its importance to the house.” In an interview with THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, a Chanel representative elaborated on this new position. The statement read:

“Fiona Pargeter just joined the company in the position of head of Diversity and Inclusion to evolve our existing diversity and inclusion approach. Diversity and Inclusion has been led for a couple of years in our People and Organization function by our people communication and engagement leader. Fiona has been hired to continue to create momentum for our efforts. This recruitment is a sign of our commitment to these topics and its importance to the house.”

While the position doesn’t necessarily require the director of diversity and inclusion to be a minority, this appointment does raise some valid questions.

Twitter / @Brigitte_Vezina

Was Pargeter the best person for the job based on her experience and skill and is that why she got the job or was it another example of failed diversification? Was her hiring a purposeful attempt to avoid tokenism and diversity hiring? Only the decision-makers at Chanel can speak towards that.

Can a white person honestly do a good enough job at reaching out to marginalized communities? Do they understand enough about the racism that Black and brown people face? Can they make a difference in the systems that oppress these communities? We aren’t sure but history has shown us that the only ones who create this kind of systematic change are people who have experienced the atrocities of said system themselves.

In response to Gucci’s controversy, streetwear designer Dapper Dan was tapped to lead a predominately black “Changemakers Council.” Additionally, the brand hired a Black Vice President of Brand and Culture Engagement, Antoine Phillips. Prada recruited director Ava DuVernay and artist Theaster Gates to co-chair the Diversity and Inclusion Council after their own backlash. Likewise, H&M made their own hires after their accusations of racism. Annie Wu was instated as Global Leader of Diversity & Inclusiveness for the company and Nigerian-American Ezinne Kwubiri was made the North American lead.

Can these Black people and people of color do a better job than Pargeter just because they understand the pain of racism? Possibly but we can’t say for sure.

Of course, Twitter had a lot to say about the Chanel hiring as well.

Twitter/ @heirjordan973

This Twitter user pointed out that Chanel’s response to too few Black people and POC in their company was to hire yet another white person. It almost reads like a bad joke when it’s put that way but it is exactly what the fashion company did in this situation.

There’s no telling how impactful this hire will prove for Chanel or other members of the industry but, in the meantime, we can vote with our dollars instead. Buy from Black and POC owned brands and know for sure that your money is going directly back into marginalized communities instead of systems that would further oppress them.

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