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Rediff.com  » Getahead » She would've been a first! Meet the black trans model L'Oreal Paris dropped

She would've been a first! Meet the black trans model L'Oreal Paris dropped

Last updated on: September 04, 2017 11:13 IST

Munroe Bergdorf had called out racism in a strongly-worded Facebook post after the White Supremacists' rally in Charlottesvilla in the US.

Munroe Bergdorf

Munroe Bergdorf, who was born a boy called Ian, began living as a woman at the age of 18. She is also a DJ and trans activist.
Photographs: @munroebergdorf/Facebook.com and @lucybrownphoto via @munroebergdorf/Instagram.

 

L'Oreal Paris would have taken a huge #fashionforward step by featuring black transgender model Munroe Bergdorf in its 'YoursTruly True Match' ad campaign. Bergdorf was, in fact, slated to make history as the first transgender woman to appear in a L'Oreal Paris campaign in the UK.

But the beauty giant has now lost the goodwill after it dropped Munroe Bergdorf over a Facebook post she wrote decrying the 'racial violence of ALL white people' in the wake of the Charlottesville violence by white supremacists.

Bergdorf, who is also a DJ and transactivist, reportedly wrote, 'Honestly I don't have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people. Because most of ya'll don't even realise 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.'

She continued, 'Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggression to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this s***... Come see me when you realise that racism isn't learned, it's inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege. Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth… then we can talk.'

 

The post has since been taken down, and replaced by another lengthy one in which Bergdorf explained her stance:

'First up, let's put my words in context... This 'rant' was a direct response to the violence of WHITE SUPREMACISTS in Charlottesville. It was not written this week.

'Secondly, identifying that the success of the British Empire has been at the expense of the people of colour, is not something that should offend ANYONE. It is a fact. It happened. Slavery and colonialism, at the hands of white supremacy, played a huge part in shaping the United Kingdom and much of the west, into the super power that it is today.

'Whether aware of it or not, in today's society the lighter your skin tone (people of colour included) the more social privileges you will be afforded. Whether that's access to housing, healthcare, employment or credit. A person's race and skin tone has a HUGE part to play in how they are treated by society as a whole, based on their proximity to whiteness.

'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... 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.'

Bergdorf also said that the 48 hours since her post went viral and L'Oreal dropped her, were 'the worst days' of her life with rape threat, 'countless people threatening to find and murder' her, and people trying to hack all her social channels.

The beauty brand had said on Twitter that they had decided to end the campaign with Bergdorf because her comments were 'at odds' with its values.

In speaking of her experience, Bergdorf also directly questioned L'Oreal Paris: 'How could you stand by and let this happen to me? In sacking me, you cosigned all this hatred.'

In a separate post she elaborated, 'When a transgender woman of colour, who has been selected to front up a big brand campaign to combat discrimination and lack of diversity in the beauty industry, speaks on her actual lived experience of being discriminated against because of her race and identifies the root of where that discrimination lies -- white supremacy and systemic racism -- that big brand cannot simply state that her thoughts are not "in line with the ethics of the brand".

'If you truly want equality and diversity, you need to actively work to dismantle the source of what created this discrimination and division in the first place. You cannot just simply cash in because you've realised there's a hole in the market and that there is money to be made from people of colour who have darker skin tones...

'If brands are going to use empowerment as a tool to push product to people of colour, then the least they can do is actually work us to dismantle the source, not throw us under the bus when it comes to the crunch. At times like this, it becomes blindly obvious what is genuine allyship and what is performative.'

Bergdorf added, 'I stand for tolerance and acceptance -- but neither can be achieved if we are unwilling to discuss WHY intolerance and hate exist in the first place.'

Rediff Get Ahead bureau