In support of Munroe Bergdorf, the model fired by L’Oreal
Her appearance in the campaign seemed to represent a huge step forward for the beauty industry
– her firing is a sad look at how diversity is disposable

Last week, Munroe Bergdorf became the first
transgender woman to feature in a L’Oreal
Paris UK campaign for their True Match
foundation. It seemed to represent a huge
step forward for the beauty industry, in creating
a campaign that begins to truly reflect the
diversity of womanhood. Munroe, who is both
black and trans, represented a minority
experience usually rendered invisible in an
industry which has barely begun to
acknowledge the existence of trans people
and in which women of colour are regularly
ignored – right down to the availability of
shades of foundation to match their skin tone.
L’Oreal Paris UK used Munroe’s image and
her voice to market its purported brand values
of diversity. Her ad ended with an inclusive
variation on the iconic slogan “Because we’re
all worth it”. Now, it’s abundantly clear we
apparently aren’t.

On Sunday August 13
2017 Bergdorf wrote a
post in response to the
white supremacist and
neo-Nazi rally in
Charlottesville, Virginia
in which she wrote that
all white people benefit
from racism, have learned
and internalised racist
practices and opinions
and must be engaged in
dismantling their
unconscious racism,
which at present helps
to maintain a system of
white supremacy.

While many queer people of colour united their voices with Munroe’s and attested to their lived experience of systemic and interpersonal
racism, her post was also met with harsh hostile criticism. A series of harassing comments and posts that were powerfully racist, anti-
black, transphobic and misogynist in their language followed. We believe these comments were intended to humiliate Munroe Bergdorf
personally and professionally. Facebook removed Munroe Bergdorf’s post yet refused to remove the posts of her detractors.

Today, this scrutiny was intensified by the Daily Mail’s decision to publish fragments of her post without context and with an editorial tone
designed to underscore racist stereotypes about black women’s anger – using for example, words like “rant” to describe a detailed and
specific response to a news story. The Mail published the name on Bergdorf’s birth certificate – a move made with the specific intention
of undermining and invalidating trans womanhood.

In response to the story, L’Oreal Paris has announced that they will be ending their professional relationship with Munroe Bergdorf with
immediate effect, tweeting “L’Oréal champions diversity. Comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with our values and so we have
decided to end our partnership with her”. In doing this they have quickly disposed of a model hired to improve diverse representation and
conceded, uncritically, to a misleading article by a newspaper notoriously used to promoting racism and transphobia.

“They have quickly disposed of a model hired to improve diverse
representation and conceded, uncritically, to a misleading article by a
newspaper notoriously used to promoting racism and transphobia”

We, as trans women and feminists, are alive to the constant precarity with which trans women of colour exist in public spaces and in
public life and the disposability that marginalises black trans women. We believe that L’Oreal has used social justice as a cynical
marketing tool, using the beauty of black trans women without genuinely supporting them.

The phrase “all white people are racist” is often received with some controversy. However, it speaks to an uncomfortable truth about the
way in which we are all socialised into a system of white supremacy. Racism is a global system of exploitation that reaches back
centuries designed to benefit white people at the expense of people of colour. With such a long heritage, which endures to the present
moment, we must acknowledge that ‘reverse racism’ against white people cannot exist.

We stand with Munroe and all queer and trans people of colour who are

engaged simultaneously in the fight for queer liberation and for liberation from racism and white supremacy. We believe that the
emboldened visibility of fascists – both in the United States and in Europe – requires a greater solidarity among queer and trans people
and among women committed to the project of feminism.

We believe all queer people, feminists and allies must recognise that antiracism is an integral part of queer, trans and feminist liberation
– and that any queer activism that is not also antiracist and antifascist will perpetuate white supremacy.

We commit ourselves to bringing about a better community and a better world by not retreating from uncomfortable and difficult
conversations with one another about racism but instead seeing ourselves as part of a shared political project to overthrow and destroy
these inequalities. The media, beauty industry outlets, companies and individuals which aid and abet this are doing grave damage to
activists so committed to making the necessary changes our communities so desperately need.

Follow Kuchenga Shenje on Twitter here @kuchengcheng
Follow Shon Faye on Twitter here @shonfaye

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