Ever since corporations, non-profits and media conglomerates began to publicly show support for #BlackLivesMatter—for the first time for many of them—there has been a visible and powerful pushback from their former and current Black employees.
See, as I’ve written before, it’s very easy to perform for the public that you stand in solidarity with people of color and change your social media avis to black, but what is happening behind the scenes at your own company? Are Black employees being treated with respect, nurtured, mentored and promoted? Or is every day they come into the office, are they met with persistent racist microaggressions, mean girl behavior and serious pay disparity?
Well, if you’ve been paying any attention to social media as of late, it’s clear that it’s more the latter. And as folks are feeling even more empowered—and angry AF—they are finding the courage to lift the veil and speak their truth…which leads me to the next person to be exposed: Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour.
Let the whispers and the tweets tell it, the 70-year-old has fostered and perpetuated a hostile environment for Black Vogue employees over the years.
Here’s fashion historian Shelby Ivey Christie’s thread on her time at the fashion bible:
Well, Ms. Anna must have known she was going to be in Black Twitter’s crosshairs because in a staff memo sent last week, which was obtained by Page Six, she acknowledged and apologized for her hurtful and demeaning behavior.
“I want to start by acknowledging your feelings and expressing my empathy towards what so many of you are going through: sadness, hurt, and anger too,” she wrote.
“I want to say this especially to the Black members of our team — I can only imagine what these days have been like. But I also know that the hurt, and violence, and injustice we’re seeing and talking about have been around for a long time. Recognizing it and doing something about it is overdue.”
Wintour took it a step further admitting that the iconic publication she has led for 32 years has “not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators.”
Looking to the past, which has to include that terribly racist 2008 Lebron James-Giselle Bundchen King Kong cover, she adds, “We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”
While Wintour may cozy up with Black celebs such as Serena Williams, Cardi B and Kanye West (all who have graced the cover of her mag in the past), it’s clear that feeling of warmth and admiration hasn’t been there for those working under her. And for her current Black employees, she shared this message: “There are too few of you. I know that it is not enough to say we will do better, but we will — and please know that I value your voices and responses as we move forward. I am listening and would like to hear your feedback and your advice if you would like to share either.
Now, if you’ve been reading Vogue lately—which I do on a daily basis—you may have noticed that there has been a vast increase in Black content, from supporting Black-owned beauty and fashion brands to an exclusive with the Black bride in Philadelphia who took pictures in the middle of a protest to why the Environmentalist Movement should be anti-racist.
As someone who has written for them before in the past, it’s honestly the most articles and focus on us I have seen from them…like ever.
Wintour says this influx of stories centering on Black lives is only just a start, a sign that the 127-year-publication is committed to doing much better, moving forward.
“I am proud of the content we have published on our site over these past few days but I also know that there is much more work to do. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me directly. I am arranging ways we can discuss these issues together candidly, but in the meantime, I welcome your thoughts or reactions.”
Looking at Andre Leon Talley’s memoir, we know that when it comes to race, Wintour has been known to treat even her Black friends badly.
“Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Mr. and Mrs. George Clooney are, to her, friends. I am no longer of value to her,” Talley revealed in the pages of In The Chiffon Trenches.
Talley has yet to respond to Wintour’s apology today, but I will definitely be waiting over there patiently on that tea. In the meantime, here’s to seeing that much-needed change finally happen at Vogue…and hopefully, beyond.