Commentary: Why Do White Editors Continue to Offend Black Women?

An online magazine's latest portratyal of Black women speaks volumes to the international consensus that white editors have about women of color.

Posted: 01/21/2014 10:00 AM EST

(Photo: Buro 24/7 Magazine, January 2014)

It’s no secret that the fashion world is riddled with racism. Time and time again Black models and models of color have testified to being discriminated against in the fashion industry. International model Chanel Iman opened up about not being casted because designers had already found their token Blacky. But what happens when racism is brought to life in magazine editorials?

The day that America celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, online magazine Buro 247 published a story about Dasha Zhukova, the Russian editor-in-chief of Garage magazine, featuring Zhukova siting comfortably atop a chair resembling a bound Black woman based on designs by controversial ‘60s artist Allen Jones.  

Almost instantaneously, just as many other degrading spreads have in the past, the image ignited uproar from the Black fashion world. Claire Sulmers, the editor of FashionBombDaily, described the image as an example of "white dominance and superiority, articulated in a seemingly serene yet overtly degrading way." Sulmers alerted the media to the article, prompting an apology from Buro 247’s editor Miroslava Duma. She pleaded her case for ignorance and absolute disregard to Black culture like many other white editors have in the past. Duma wrote on her Instagram, account: 

“Buro 24/7 team and I personally would like to express our sincerest apology to anyone who we have offended and hurt.  It was ABSOLUTELY not our intention. We are against racism or gender inequality or anything that infringes upon anyone’s rights. We love, respect and look up to people regardless of their race, gender or social status…”

So what was the intention? Why does the French magazine Numéro continue to portray images of African queens with the Black-painted faces of white women in kinky fros? Why did Vogue Netherlands employ model Querelle Jansen to dress in blackface as Grace Jones and Josephine Baker? The answer is simple: White editors believe that Black women are beneath them. In fact, Buro 247’s picture said it loud and clear. 


(Photo: VOGUE Netherlands, May 2013)

Despite several instances of backlash and so-called heartfelt apologies, white editors on a whole, specifically those who do not work in America, do not care how far Black women have came or that there is an array of shades and shapes of black models to choose from. They completely overlook the fact that their ideas of art are outdated, callous or offensive. These editors are comfortable publishing the content because they are consciously and subconsciously fixated on continuously reminding Black women that they are inferior to whites. At what point do they learn from other offensive spreads and think twice about sending an edtiorial to print?

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Follow Dominique Zonyéé on Twitter: @DominiqueZonyee.


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