Thursday, July 29, 2010

Black & White: Essence Gets Caught In The Race Game

Essence Magazine has incited a race debate in the fashion and periodical landscape with one simple hire. Shockwaves were sent through the black fashion world Wednesday when Essence announced the hiring of Elliana Placas, a white woman, as Fashion Editor of the magazine dedicated to black women. Former Essence staffer and Hip-Hop activist Michaela Davis voiced her disdain for the selection on her Facebook page and has since been interviewed by Anderson Cooper on this issue. Davis’ position, as stated to CNN, is "the fashion industry is not diverse -- it is an elite, closed world and there is very little place for black women. At Fashion Week, there was one seat for Essence. One. Black women's image and beauty has either been ignored or defiled and that one seat should be filled by someone who can represent the style, history and body type of black women." Editor-In-Chief Angela Burt-Murray stands behind the hiring of Placas. "I got to see firsthand her creativity, her vision, the positive reader response to her work, and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand. As such, I thought she'd make an excellent addition to our team. And I still do. This decision in no way diminishes my commitment to black women, our issues, our fights."

The question has been posed whether deliberately appointing a black fashion editor is reverse racism. And we all know the answer is yes. The need for reverse racism had been placed upon African-American entities that were forced to create opportunities where none existed previously. I agree with Davis’ position that Essence created a stake hold as “the” Black women’s magazine and in that position certain expectations have been attributed to the brand. But ultimately, we know that the basis of employment should be based on qualifications and not race. I hope and expect that Essence did their due diligence in looking for qualified candidates of all races for the fashion editor position. If Placas was the best fit for the position, then she deserves the post, whether she is black, white or green.


1 comment:

  1. I agree Mike. Although it may be difficult for Blacks to have a seat at the table in most industries, including fashion, that does not mean African American-focused media should only hire talent that Afrcan American.

    I think there lies the problem with most AA media companies. Just because it's a AA-focused publication does not mean the only people who are qualified to run it should be AA.

    If Placas is more talented than the other AA candidates, why shouldn't she be considered for the position. That would be discrimination.

    I think more companies, espeically African American-owned need to embrace diversity. It is a two way street. Many AA have a tendency to be in support of affirmative action when it benefits them, but if it benefits someone else, there's no support.

    I'm not against affirmative action, but I feel it should be consistent across all instances, no matter who the beneficiary is.