August 1, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins and Others Respond to the Essense Magazine Controversy

Syracuse University professor and social commentator, Dr. Boyce D. Watkins gives his view on the recent controversy.

-It seems that the world has grown irritated with Essence Magazine for hiring a new white fashion editor. Michaela Angela Davis, a former employee, has blasted the organization for effectively betraying its constituents with the non-traditional hire. She cites mass discrimination that has historically occurred within the fashion industry and seems disappointed that “our space” no longer belongs to us.

I certainly empathize with Davis’ point. Davis is a strong and direct black woman (I had her on my show), one who has very little tolerance for those who deviate from what she perceives as righteous ideology regarding women and minorities. Her passion for the issues that affect us seems to come from a genuine place, like a black woman who has seen enough and refuses to allow herself or anyone like her to be victimized by a clearly racist and sexist society.

On the other hand, Davis’ position might be considered to be extreme by those hoping for a more open and inclusive society. While Davis’ concerns about America at large are certainly accurate and relevant, I am sure that Elliana Placas, the new fashion editor, feels incredibly uncomfortable being caught in the racial and gender-based cross-fire that continues to plague America. In other words, she’s just a white woman trying to keep a damn job.

With that said, here are some questions I have about Essence Magazine’s decision to hire a white fashion editor:

Read more in the article The 'Essence' Controversy: Racial and gender-based cross-fire continues to plague America.

Also weighing in on the controversy is blogger Lola Adesioye of the Grio.

-The furor over Essence magazine's hiring of a white fashion editor is shortsighted and disheartening on so many levels.

...I know there is some nuance behind what Davis said, but on face value it simply looks like a bigoted statement. To be "heavy hearted" that Essence has hired one white fashion director in its 40 years history is racial sensitivity gone overboard. Davis has argued, accurately, that the fashion industry is a "closed world" for black women. Yet, in reality that has little to do with Essence. That is a wider issue for the fashion industry as a whole to address.

Read more from the Grio article "Essence's white fashion editor caught up in off-color controversy"

Former Essence Magazine Fashion Editor Harriette Cole and a former Essence Contibutor writer Sophia A. Nelson discuss the Debate on MSNBC

Note: MSNBC only allows one viewing; mouse over, click 'playlist' and type in "essense magazine controversy" to view the video segment more than once...

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