When Fashion Gets All Race-y

Published February 23, 2011

Poor Fashion. Everytime someone gets a harebrained idea involving clothes, a model, and a runway or photo shoot, and that harebrained idea is attacked in the press, who gets in trouble? Fashion. Though its defenses are usually "artistic expression" or the favorite, "Europeans are more open-minded about such things, you puritanical Americans," Fashion, capital F required, still frequently finds itself in hot water. So you've decided to fly to Kenya and cast a white woman in a safari outfit that makes her look like a 1950s British imperialist and stick her in the center of a crowd of brown people in loincloths? We thought you knew better than to create images of colonialism based on racist fantasies of black savagery, but Fashion got its hold on you—the same way it snared Tyra when she had her Top Model contestants get gussied up like biracial women, homeless people, and victims of violence.

Well, Fashion has lured someone else into its evil lair, convincing Beyoncé that the proper way to honor Fela Kuti in a story in French magazine L'Officiel was to put on blackface. It could hurt your brain to consider that we still consider your level of Blackness to be dependent on how dark-skinned you are (does that mean that on the Black Meter a Prince doesn't stand a chance against a little mocha Snookie?). But before you write an incensed letter to the editor, lambasting them for old-timey racial insensitivity that would have Fela turning in his grave, don't fret—just shake your fist at that scoundrel Fashion. 

Written by Ayana Byrd

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