Essence magazine has fired Elliana Placas, the white fashion director whose hiring in 2010 sparked a firestorm of controversy, including a silent protest during New York Fashion Week. When Placas joined the publication, which imagines itself as the premier lifestyle magazine for African-American women, critics were in an uproar that a white woman occupied the fashion director post for the first time in the company’s history. The thinking went: She doesn’t understand what it means to be a black woman and, thus, can’t represent one in the magazine, and she’s taking the job away from qualified black women who should be given priority. Angela Burt-Murray, who was editor-in-chief at the time, released a statement saying black women have more important issues to worry about. Claims of reverse racism flew in casual conversation and among media outlets.

Now that Placas has been fired (and it’s been a year and some months after Essence replaced Burt-Murray with Constance White), that same conversation about reverse racism is resurfacing.

It does not apply. If White fired her simply because she’s white, wouldn’t Placas have left the company more than a year ago? And it’s important to note she’s not the only white employee at Essence; the magazine also hired Michael Bullerdick as managing editor. (He since has left the company after racially insensitive posts were uncovered from his Facebook page).

It’s distressing that mainstream media looks to situations like this to prove that racism occurs on both ends of the spectrum. I can’t help but think, as this particular story gets more and more coverage, of all the women of color who vie for jobs at fashion magazines and are passed over, not because they aren’t capable, but because of their race. Where are the articles defending them and asking for them to be treated fairly?

The fashion industry has long been an elitist community, with white players rising to the top of the fray. This singular instance, in which race doesn’t even seem to be a factor, doesn’t take away from that.

–Jaclyn Marshall

  • http://gravatar.com/nissmarie08 aqualitymess

    Damn near every fashion magazine in existence is catered to and run by white women. Essence should hire black so the magazine can be for us by us as much as possible. Let’s face it, a black woman isn’t going to be the fashion editor at Cosmo. That spot at Essence should be reserved for a black woman. The other opportunities are not there.

  • YB

    +1

  • lauryn

    +2

  • Misty_Moonsilver

    +3

  • http://reclaimedfashions.com lw

    +4. I’d love to support Essence again if there was something there to support.

  • African Mami

    Why was she fired?!

  • http://www.sparklebloom.wordpress.com Nina Renee

    +5.

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

    I agree, Aqualitymess!

  • Malik Hemmans

    that whole for us by us motto is what made FUBU bankrupt…black people don’t support black people and we know it

  • SS25

    Maybe the black people you know. My family, friends and I all support black businesses.

  • Kiki

    I think the reverse racism card can be played just as much as the racism one, so I think it is completely valid to have a conversation about an action that reveals reverse racism, as much as it is to have a conversation about racism. The argument that so many people use, “they” have “their” thing, why can’t “we” have “ours” would definitely not fly if it was used to apply to the reverse situation. People know they would be outraged if a black woman was not allowed to write in a magazine about European or any culture if she had proven herself to be the best fit for the role, including her commitment to the mission of the magazine. There should be the same sentiments if a white person who feels they can deliver to a magazine that targets black women wants to fill a role for which they have been determined qualified. Who cares if it happens more for a black person trying to get in the “white’ world than the opposite. If you’re against discrimination, be against it, not selectively so.

    And I’m mad people acted like a white woman could never know what black women like…don’t you watch BET, VH1, VH1 Soul and Centric.. please trust and believe that all the folks that work there do not share your race but they seem to have your interests down.

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ Rose Kahendi

    I was under the impression that it was a privately-owned magazine, in which case, the folks who own it and the ones they hire to run it are the ones who have the final say on recruitment. So why on earth would we turn it into a community affair?

    If I were in charge of hiring for the magazine, and if I thought this lady had something to bring to the table and was the best candidate, I would have hired her. If you want to succeed in business, you can’t think of everything in racial terms. When you want to achieve something with a group of people, you choose the best folks for the job, people you can work with. If they’re all black, so be it. If it’s a mixed group, so be it. But you can’t move forward if you completely shut out people from outside the community. You have to at least be open to them, see what they have to offer. If it doesn’t agree with your larger philosophy, then you are justified in hiring somebody else.

    I think it’s important to realize that creating inclusive communities is not just about making room for racial minorities in predominantly white communities. It’s also about making room for white individuals in predominantly black or brown communities. If we really believe we’re equal to other people, then we have to hold ourselves to the same ideals to which we hold them.

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ Rose Kahendi

    Wise words, Kiki.

  • Kam

    There is no such thing as reverse racism. The dictionary definition of racism does not specify which color has to be racist.

  • erica

    reverse racism is not a thing

  • AltheaGarden

    It’s not reverse racism because reverse racism doesn’t exist.

  • LadyT

    +1

  • KG

    Black people support Black businesses/people who sell quality product. I am not sure what FUBU looked like in your region but all of the clothing in mine was outdated, oversized, lacked variety, and too loud with those outrageously huge FUBU emblems plastered on every inch of the fabric. I know that some African Americans believe that their own people should feel obligated to buy from or support their business on the premise that they are AA. NEGATIVE. In the same manner that business owners feel that their own people should be obligated to purchase products from their own, they should feel compelled to produce the best of the best for their people. With all of the above said, I support reputable AA businesses all the time including the young African American woman selling cupcakes from a rented stand located in an upscale mall to advance her dream of one day opening her own bakery, to AA dentists, doctors, etc.

  • Ravi
  • Ravi

    But I’m not against discrimination. I’m against subjugation and white supremacy. Discrimination can be a tool to battle subjugation — women in science and engineering programs, affirmative action, Bridge programs in colleges, black beauty pageants, etc. I have no more problem with Essence only hiring black directors than I do with government contracts set aside for minority companies. discrimination in favor of the disadvantaged group isn’t a problem.

    When white people are in a state of relative privilege, then this sort of anti-discrimination perspective leads to the perpetuation of white supremacy.

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

    @Rose Kahendi

    Essence is not privately owned. It is owned by Time, Inc. It’s just another Black appearing media outlet that is White owned like BET and TVOne.

  • Sick

    Well, if you ask me, Essence has lost it edge!!!! all the models have that same weave going on and the same hairstyles. There is no “edge” in that!!!!! I believe they have lost their way. We don’t all care about celebrities, put some real people in your pages Essence and maybe AA women will come back!!!!

  • Ms. Information

    I was wondering if sales had gone down…I know I stopped purchasing it with all the drama that surrounded it..

  • tight lipped mary

    i haven’t read a good issue in years.
    i am also tired of the same recycled articles year after year.

    i really don’t care about celebrities at all. they can dedicate a page or
    two to celebrity gossip. why is there always a celeb on the cover.

    what happened to the days when a pretty up and coming model was on
    the cover.

    as mentioned there is nothing edgy at all. i now read the magazine when i am
    standing the line at the grocery store.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Rivkasmom Grace Acosta

    Not enough details about the Placas situation to make an informed decision one way or the other. Maybe she just didn’t meet her deadlines or something. Could be perfectly legit.

    THIS is more problematic. “also hired Michael Bullerdick as managing editor. (He since has left the company after racially insensitive posts were uncovered from his Facebook page). White boy lands a good paying job, and messes it up by showing his racist a** on FB. I think he missed the memo on what it means to be an “ally”.

    *smdh*

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