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L’Oreal, Munroe Bergdorf & Diversity: A Conversation

This month L’Oreal have been in the headlines quiiiite a bit. And not really in the all publicity is good publicity kind of way.

The reason for the storm is the firing of Munroe Bergdorf, a black, transgender model who was part of their recently launched ‘True Match’ diversity campaign. When Munroe took to her private Facebook to express her feelings over the horrific situation occurring in Charlottesville she was branded “anti-white” and subsequently let go for the comments she made.

She wrote: ““Honestly, I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people. Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you built the blueprint for this shit. Come see me when you realise racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege. Once white people begin to admit their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth … then we can talk.”

And many are livid at L’Oreal’s decision. As a writer for The Independent put it: “They wanted Munroe’s transness, her blackness, her womanhood and all of the glory and the capital gain of her ‘diversity’ with none of the corollary activism and resistance that comes with her identity.”

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Having very recently finished Renni Eddo-Lodge’s ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race,’ I think I was a lot more able to understand the nuances and the reality behind what Munroe said, and what she meant, than if I had not read the book. Thing is, to suggest that all white people, (and all people in general regardless of gender or creed), internalise the oppressive rhetoric and paradigms that dominate our society should be taken as a given.

Even Munroe’s (white) mother got pissed off, as Munroe told The Guardian: “I’m half-white. My mum thought I was lumping her in with everyone, but this isn’t about individuals. To understand my point, you have to take yourself out of the conversation – it’s not about you – and truly think about society, structurally, economically, as a whole.” And I guess that’s part of the trouble. That’s not always so easy to do.

What really stuck with me is that it had taken Renni a whole entire book to adequately express what Munroe had tried to say in a couple of sentences on Facebook. The odds were always going to be against her in managing to properly do that, despite the fact that there is inherently and sadly an abundance of truth in what she meant. As a writer, I am well aware of the importance of HOW something is said in terms of getting the desired message across and that was a point I enjoyed debating when invited on to Millie Cotton and Sophie Milner’s new podcast ‘Keeping It Candid’ to discuss this subject.

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We expressed our support for Munroe and debated whether social media is really the place for this sort of discussion as well as the importance of HOW something is said in terms of getting the desired response / point across. You can listen back to the episode here.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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