It was groundbreaking news last week when L’Oréal announced they were hiring model Munroe Bergdorf to front their L’Oréal UK campaign. This would have been the first time the international beauty brand hired an openly transgender woman to model in their campaign. L’Oréal received praise in the press all week—for championing LGBTQ issues and using their new campaign to talk about diversity.
That all ended quickly when The Daily Mail published a Facebook post that Bergdorf made after the attack in Charlottesville where she called all white people racist.
Instead of understanding the nuance of what Bergdorf was saying in that she was talking about social fact, people went on an online rampage calling her remarks racist. Let this be a quick reminder that reverse racism is not real.
L’Oréal then released a statement via Twitter saying, “L’Oréal champions diversity. Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have decided to end our partnership with her.” Many people then called L’Oréal out for being hypocritical. They fired a Black trans woman from a campaign about diversity for speaking out against systemic racism.
L’Oréal champions diversity. Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have decided to end our partnership with her.
— L’Oréal Paris UK (@LOrealParisUK) September 1, 2017
After the news of being fired from the campaign, Bergdorf released an eloquent, smart and accurate statement.
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 – designed to benefit, prioritise and protect white people before anyone of any other race. Unknowingly, white people are SOCIALISED to be racist from birth onwards. It is not something genetic. No one is born racist.
We also live in a society where men are SOCIALISED to be sexist. Women are SOCIALISED to be submissive. Gay people are SOCIALISED to be ashamed of their sexuality due to heterosexual people’s homophobia. Cisgender people are SOCIALISED to be transphobic.
We do not need to be this way. We are not born this way and we can learn to reject it. We are just socially conditioned to think this way from an early age. With the right education, empathy and open mindedness we can unlearn these socialisations and live a life where we don’t oppress others and see things from other people’s points of view.
She also appeared on Channel 4 News in the UK to engage in further conversation about her statement and explain the ways in which white people need to be actively undoing systemic racism. Instead of attacking Bergdorf for daring to suggest that white people are racist, we should be listening to what she has to say. Instead of being hurt that we were called racist, why not get up and do something to change the society we live in? To make it a better place for everyone?
The proof is right there in front of us: The fact that Bergdorf got fired from a campaign for speaking out against racism shows that racism is in fact alive and thriving in every industry. Continually, big brands want to profit off of Black women without actually standing up for them.