****UPDATE ALERT AND BREAKING NEWS IN THE FIGHT TO DISMANTLE WHITE SUPREMACY***
DEAR WHITE SUPREMACY, MUNROE BERGDORF CALLED. SHE SAID SHE’S COMING FOR YOU. SHE ISN’T PLAYING THIS TIME.
These past weeks have been eventful to say the least, in terms of our all important battle to dismantle White Supremacy and important discussions on the understanding of what ‘Racism’ is and how it actually functions. In terms of statements like ‘all white people are racist’ and why and what #IStandWithMunroe means. It’s A LOT to digest.
Munroe Bergdorf, Model, DJ, Activist and Presenter of @radarradioldn 1/4 of @pxssypalace Voted #8 most influential LGBT person UK 2017 made history last month by being the first trans-women to be featured in L’Oreal Diversity Campaign, one of the biggest beauty brands in the world. Short lived, as on September 1st the Daily Mail shared comments from Munroe, citing a Facebook post Munroe had written months ago in response to the racist Charlottesville rally, the alt-right march in relation to whiteness and white supremacy.
Her comments seem to be taken out of context and were spun to create a knee jerking story of the most dreaded ‘reverse racism’ rhetoric imaginable. Causing Munroe to be removed from the L’Oreal Campaign swiftly after the article was published.
We live in the age of the Web 2.0, where an individual’s public appearance, their persona, their image can be created, catapulted, reach stardom overnight but in the same motion can just as easily be destroyed, in a matter of seconds, alongside their careers, affecting their economic circumstances, their safety, their agency, their entire lives. It’s bizarre and paradoxical to see that in the same movement of the sidebar on a screen and within the same screen interface you can see a post from the 30th Aug where Munroe Bergdorf’s life had been completely changed from being the first trans woman to be featured in a L’Oreal Campaign to the very next day removed, completely erased and condemned, because of speaking her truth and voicing her opinions on a post on her Facebook.
The effects and consequences of Bergdorf being dragged into having these conversations on whiteness into the big public domain and hypervisible platforms outside of academia, outside of educational platforms that champion representation, visibility and dialogue such as Shades of Noir, Black Blossoms, Consented, etc, outside of SJW groups and activist blogs catapulted into to the big white world, shoving a mirror to it’s face and pointing at it., like ‘Hey, you’re the problem.’ was a mix of so many emotions that included outrage, solidarity, even in celebration of Munroe’s strength and composure as Munroe was directly placed at the receiving end of endless virtual violence, harassment, and shaming.
Munroe is now hypervisible, with such hypervisibility and speaking such truth comes dangerous consequences of feeling unsafe, risk of poor mental health and sense of well-being, etc. Yet, to date, amongst all the drama, Munroe has been on talk show after talk show, appearance after appearance and has stood her ground firmly in her truth, and kept herself calm and collected in face of the ugly bigoted knee-jerk reactions such as the likes of Piers Morgan.
The floodgates were opened and questions of whether or not we should be engaging with capitalist corporations such as L’Oreal to begin with have circulated, questions on where were the black owned business to support Munroe when she was dropped from the ‘Diversity’ L’Oreal (Sodipo, E.). Questions on what ‘Diversity’ as a bandwagon agenda pushed by multinational capitalist corporations because, social justice, empowerment, representation and visibility is what SELLS right now and are on trend, and the co-opting of such movements opens a window of opportunity both to profit from and to dilute its original intent. (See Pepsi Jenner)
Racism is still unclear to many, I’m still learning more and more each day of how racism is internalised, how it works, how it evolves adapts and changes, how it’s subjectively understood and most importantly how it is understood by white people. (See: What collective critique from PoC looks like both IRL and URL: The Golliwog) My comments on ‘all white people are racist and need to ‘unlearn’ racism’ due to our inherently racist society’ were erased and blocked form the debate not too long ago, with Fb warning me that I had violated their ‘safe space’ code. This isn’t the first time, this happens ALL the time and to many people, whether in the spotlight or not. The violent act of silencing and of erasure at best and the violent backlash accompanied by death threats, rape threats and harassment, job and career loss at worst.
In Huck Magazine, Travis Alabanza writes “We watch figures from Dianne Abbot to Jason Osamede Okundaye to Chardine Taylor-Stone, in all different spheres of work and public life, constantly having to negotiate the difficult task of speaking out and then facing the backlash…The effects this has on the mental health of people of colour in the public eye is draining, but it also leads them to lose work (and therefore finances and future opportunities).”
What we need to talk about, though, are the material and real effects this has on people of colour within the public eye. How (particularly when you’re also queer, trans, and a women) this creates an impossible tightrope of trying to stay true to yourself while avoiding media backlashes, loss of work, and hateful online trolling.
Constantly we watch on as activists and public figures of colour are sent death threats and abuse on social media as they talk about racism openly. Here
Through her hyper visibility and the backlash received the community rose up in support of Munroe with #IStandWithMunroe, with articles in response to her removal from the L’Oreal campaign, with Clara Amfo, Radio 1 DJ asking for her pictures to be removed from L’Oreal’s True Match campaign in response to the company’s firing of Munroe Bergdorf in solidarity (link), and with white journalists and bloggers writing articles and blogs in response, Munroe was invited to speak on morning shows, on channel 4 news, becoming even more visible to a much wider public audience and platform, live television. Let’s not forget, the amount of strength needed to be found as a transwomen of colour to speak of white supremacy on such a scale, as well as maintain and collect yourself for the public eye. Perhaps these are some of the most difficult things to do. Her strength has no words other than utterly inspirational.
There’s a strong and bright future ahead for Munroe and whilst we all stand with her as we follow her story and her journey we must not forget about the importance of and the gratitude towards platforms such as Shades of Noir, a platform that promotes conversation, representations, voices, allows room and holds space to explore and ask questions, particularly around white supremacy, systemic racism and dismantling these systems in place that currently oppress us, instead of erasure and silencing.
Munroe Bergdorf Shades of Noir Salutes you and Stands With You.
As Munroe herself said “Empowerment and inclusivity are not trends, these are people’s lives and experiences. If brands are going to use empowerment as a tool to push product to people of colour, then the least they can do is actually work with us to dismantle the source, not throw us under the bus when it comes to the crunch. At times like this, it becomes blindly obvious what is genuine allyship and what is performative.” – This is black, trans model and activist Munroe Bergdorf’s statement released after she was trashed in a Daily Mail article (which we won’t link to here), for calling out white people’s racism following the events of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
PSA: #YesAllwhitePeople: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zPtpRrpU-g
Munroe Bergdorf https://www.instagram.com/p/BYjWlEzHetD/?taken-by=munroebergdorf