It seems that the blogosphere is up in arms over the recent hire of Ellianna Placas, a white woman, to head the fashion department at Essence.
Like Angela Burt-Murray, Editor-in-Chief of Essence Magazine, I believe people have lost focus of the pressing issues the black community should be focusing on. When a co-worker began telling me about the negative attention this new hire received, I honestly didn’t see the issue and I thought it was rather progressive.
Of course it is evident that there is a lack of African-American women that are visible in the fashion industry, but what does that issue have to do with promoting someone (in this case, a white woman) to Editor? Experience, talent and ability are a few of the qualifying attributes a prospective candidate should have, but race should NEVER be a factor.
In her post on the Grio, Angela presents her side of the issue:
And when I set out to hire a new fashion director I certainly had no idea I would end up making this decision. I first got to know and came to respect Ellianna when she came to work with us nearly six months ago. We were conducting a search for a new director when she was hired to run the department on a freelance basis. I got to see firsthand her creativity, her vision, the positive reader response to her work, and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand. As such, I thought she’d make an excellent addition to our team. And I still do. This decision in no way diminishes my commitment to black women, our issues, our fights. I am listening and I do take the concerns to heart.
But interestingly enough, the things I think should most upset people and inspire boycotts and Facebook protests, often seem to go relatively unnoticed. Like when Essence conducted a three-part education series this year on the plight of black children falling through the cracks in under-performing schools. Crickets. When we reported on the increase in sex trafficking of young black girls in urban communities? Silence. When our writers investigated the inequities in the health care services black women receive? Deadly silence. When our editors highlighted data from the Closing the Gap Initiative report “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth and America’s Future” that showed that the median net worth of single black women was $5? There went those darn crickets again. When we run pieces on how unemployment is devastating black men? Nada. When we run story after story on how HIV is the leading cause of death for black women age 18-34? Zilch. The things that really are the end of our world apparently aren’t.
While the response to these important stories may not always be as strong as we would like or lead to immediate change, Essence remains committed to telling these stories. Forty years ago Essence was founded to empower, celebrate, and inspire black women to climb higher, go further and break down barriers. Our commitment to black women remains unchanged as we continue to stay laser-focused on those principles–no matter who works with us.