This morning, L’Oréal Paris ended its relationship with Munroe Bergdorf, the brand’s first trans model, after she made controversial remarks about racism among whites.
“Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people,” Bergdorf, 30, reportedly wrote in a Facebook post that has since been removed.
“Because most of ya’ll don’t even realize or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of color. Your entire existence is drenched in racism… Come see me when you realize that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege.”
On Friday, L’Oréal said Bergdorf’s comments were “at odds” with the company’s values and it was removing her from its current #YoursTruly campaign. “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 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
The London model and DJ later posted she had been quoted out of context, and that her comments were in response to the situation in Charlottesville: “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, prioritize and protect white people before anyone of any other race.”
In an earlier essay for Vogue, Bergdorf eschewed being called a role model, instead preferring to see herself as a “role option.”
“I definitely set out to empower girls like me,” she said in a #YoursTruly promo video. “Hopefully, people can relate to what I’ve been through—because it’s not a smooth ride, but people can see their own ride in my ride.”
Reaction has been mixed, with some calling Bergdorf racist herself, and others crediting her for speaking out. Otamare Guobadia wrote in
The ensuing backlash around her statements and her consequent firing continue to create the sort of conditions in which there is a greater material consequence for speaking out against racism than actual racist rhetoric.
These right-wing media attacks form part of an increasingly popular cycle of demonization, where statements about racism and its structural and all-pervasive nature are decontextualized, interpreted in entirely bad faith, and branded as “anti-white rants” that are then used to form the crux of a witchhunt and facilitate twitter pile-ons and racist abuse.
Bergdorf, who was only announced as the face of the #YoursTruly campaign this week, has called for a boycott against L’Oréal.
“Sit still and smile in a beauty campaign ’championing diversity,” she wrote. “But don’t actually speak about the fact that lack of diversity and is due to racism. Or speak about the origins of racism. It’ll cost you your job.”
If this incident means that I am patient zero in discussing the origins of racism in mainstream media and how… https://t.co/BtLaSBkLxg
— Munroe Bergdorf (@MunroeBergdorf) September 1, 2017