When We Stand Up, We’re Sat Down

BY: ZSHEKINAH COLLIER

L’Oreal Paris UK dropped their first black transgender model Munroe Bergdorf from their True Match campaign over a Facebook post in which the model talked about whiteness and racial violence.

This week has required strength that I never knew I had.

A post shared by Munroe Bergdorf (@munroebergdorf) on

The beauty brand found her statement to be “at odds with their values,” so they let her go.  

When the August protests in Charlottesville turned violent, the DJ and activist decided to express her feelings about white supremacy and violence on Facebook. “Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people anymore, Yes ALL white people,” Bergdorf posted. “Because most of ya'll don't even realize or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour. Your entire existence is drenched in racism."

Less than two days after L’Oreal’s ad was launched, the model’s post was taken out of context in an article on the Daily Mail. The headline read: “L’oreal Transgender Model says all white people are racist.”

After Bergdorf was fired, the article's headline was updated to “L'Oreal's first transgender model is SACKED by the cosmetics giant after claiming 'ALL white people' are racist in extraordinary Facebook rant.” The trans model even received online death threats for her statements.

Bergdorf then wrote a lengthy Facebook post to defend herself and her intentions.

"When I stated that 'all white people are racist,'" the post said, “I was addressing the fact that western society as a whole, is a SYSTEM rooted in white supremacy - designed to benefit, prioritise and protect white people before anyone of any other race. Unknowingly, white people are SOCIALISED to be racist from birth onwards. It is not something genetic. No one is born racist.”

After she spoke her truth on Facebook, fans and followers showed their solidarity with Munroe by boycotting L’Oreal products. Fans have also started their own campaign to try and get Rihanna to sign Munroe Bergdorf to her new 40 shade foundation line, Fenty Beauty.  Clara Amfo, a BBC radio host who was also featured in the True Match Campaign, stood in solidarity with Bergdorf by asking L’Oreal to remove her from the ads as well.

  Photo by Marcus Hessenberg

Photo by Marcus Hessenberg

Bergdorf wrote a piece on  Broadly Vice last week where she reflected on the experience. She knew that being a public figure would attract attention both good and bad, but was determined to stand by her values. “You can't just use the images of people of color to profit from an untapped demographic; you need to actually support the people you are representing,” said Bergdorf.

Although Bergdorf wasn't hired by Rihanna like Twitter requested, she did land a new job with Illamasqua as the face of their gender fluidity campaign. Illamasqua voiced their support for Munroe on Twitter.

"In order for our generation to move forward and create a more inclusive society it’s not just about showing diversity. We must all be free to talk about social issues in a constructive and tolerant way.”