By: Shivani Gosai | Opinions Editor
The makeup industry has a reputation of not being inclusive for people of color. However, the most recent debacle with L’Oreal has brought about a discussion of racism with recently fired ambassador Munroe Bergdorf.
Bergdorf is a black, queer transgender woman who recently claimed the title of the newest face of L’Oreal True Match. The True Match campaign is centered around social justice and diversity — L’Oreal has previously hired multiple people of diverse backgrounds to promote their products, Munroe was the first transgender woman for the L’Oreal campaign. Three days after receiving the title, she was fired for a lengthy Facebook rant regarding white racism towards blacks.
In the post, Bergdorf was addressing the recent events in Charlottesville:
“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 colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this shit,” she said. “Come see me when you realise that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege.”
Her full statement was reported by Daily Mail.
L’Oreal responded with a very condescending statement,
“L’Oréal supports diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender and religion. We believe that the recent comments by L’Oréal Paris UK Spokesperson Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with those values, and as such we have taken the decision to end the partnership with her.”
The decision to let Bergdorf go from the campaign was ultimately very hypocritical of L’Oreal. Bergdorf was simply speaking her piece, and as a black, queer transgender woman, she has experienced the utmost amount of discrimination. She is allowed to have her voice, and for L’Oreal to try to silence her is shameful.
To further prove L’Oreal’s hypocrisy, one of their key ambassadors, Cheryl Cole, was found guilty for assaulting a black nightclub bathroom attendant in 2003. Physical abuse and racially charged verbal abuse is perfectly okay for a L’Oreal ambassador to do, but speaking out against racism is not.
Most people were upset for Bergdorf’s statement, because she was vaguely calling out “all white people.” Some felt uncomfortable for being lumped into one group. All white people are not racist, this is true, but if you are not actively working with people of color (POC) to overcome racism, then you are complicit. Bergdorf is essentially trying to communicate that neutrality is not appreciated by the oppressed. Systemic racism can be just as damaging as a violent attack.
L’Oreal tried to appease the hole in the market of POC and LGBTQ consumers by hiring Bergdorf, but the second she opened her mouth to make a serious statement, she was no longer seen as valuable. She became a liability for offending their main consumers: white people.
If you want to show support and inclusiveness, you have to be open to the opinions of the marginalized. L’Oreal is already receiving backlash for their decision from people using the hashtag “#istandwithmunroe” and pledging to boycott L’Oreal products.
“I don’t regret what I said,” Bergdorf said. “I’m an activist. Being an activist means calling people out, not just saying what everyone else is saying and what everyone else wants to think and upholding the common consensus. L’Oréal knew that when they hired me.”