• Clodagh Meaney

#IStandWithMunroe: Model Munroe Bergdorf calls out brand for hypocritical Black Lives Matter post

"I would not have been sacked if I had said what I said and was a cisgender, straight, white woman"

By Clodagh Meaney

Model Munroe Bergdorf has called out beauty brand L'Oreal for posting a tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement after they allegedly fired her from a campaign for speaking out against white supremacy.

The British activist became the brand's first transgender model when she partook in their True Match colour make-up campaign.

In 2017, she posted a status to Facebook calling out white supremacy after an anti-racism demonstrator was killed by police in the United States.

"Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more. Yes ALL white people," she wrote.

“Because most of ya’ll don’t even realise 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. From micro-aggressions to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this s***"

Bergdorf went on to say: "Come see me when you realise that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege."

“Once white people begin to admit that their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth... then we can talk.”

The brand then dropped Munroe from their campaign citing their support for "diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender and religion."

In an interview with the Guardian, she further clarified her comments: "Racism isn’t just calling someone something, it’s a whole system," she said.

"If you think we live in an equal society, you’re living in a daydream. You need to recognise that there is such a thing as white privilege and you can be homeless and still have white privilege because you can still have a better chance of getting out of homelessness than a person of colour in the same position.”

"We do have the language, but it needs to be out there: unlearning, microaggressions, being complicit, unconscious bias, privilege – these need to be taught, we need to address why syllabuses only teach white history, we need to speak about slavery and the brutality of colonialism," she explained.

Following the death of George Floyd, people across the world have stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. L'Oreal Paris was one of many brands to post on social media about the issue, something Munroe was quick to call them out for.

"Speaking out is worth it," their post read, in reference to their marketing slogan "You're worth it."

Taking to Instagram on Monday, Munroe shared their post and rightfully called them out on their hypocrisy. "Excuse my language but I am SO angry. FUCK YOU @lorealparis, the post began.

"You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy. With no duty of care, without a second thought."

"I had to fend for myself being torn apart by the world's press because YOU didn't want to talk about racism. You even tried to get me to incriminate myself with pairing me up with your shady lawyers, when I had done NOTHING wrong. THAT is what you get for 'speaking out' when employed by@lorealparis," she wrote adding: "racist snakes."

"I said just yesterday that it would only be a matter of time before RACIST AF brands saw a window of PR opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. Fuck you. Fuck your 'solidarity'. Where was my support when I spoke out? Where was my apology? I'm disgusted and writing this in floods of tears and shaking."

"This is gaslighting," she added.

Today, 48 hours after her original post, Munroe has once again called out the brand for not acknowledging her "emotional, mental and professional harm" and making an apology.

"I wanted to give @lorealparis 48 hours before writing this to see if a public apology was possible," her second post began.

"But their choice to ignore me and not acknowledge the emotional, mental and professional harm that they caused me since sacking me in 2017, after speaking out about white supremacy and racism, speaks volumes." "So does their choice not to engage with the thousands of black community members and allies who have left comments of concern on their last two posts, in response to their claim to support the black community, despite an evident history of being unwilling to talk about the issues that black people face globally because of white supremacy," she said. "Black Lives Matter is a movement for the people, by the people. It is not here to be co-opted for capital gain by companies who have no intention of actually having difficult conversations regarding white supremacy, police brutality, colonialism and systemic racism. It cannot be reduced to a series of corporate trends by brands like L'Oréal who have no intention of actually doing the work to better themselves or taking ownership of their past mistakes or conscious acts of racial bias."

"I would not have been sacked if I had said what I said and was a cisgender, straight, white woman. It just wouldn't have happened. If you want to stand with black lives matter then get your own house in order first," she asserted. "This could have been a moment of redemption for L'Oréal, a chance for them to make amends and lead by example. We all get things wrong, we all make mistakes, but it's where you go from there that is a signifier of who you are. L'Oréal claiming to stand with the black community, yet also refusing to engage with the community on this issue, or apologise for the harm they caused to a black female queer transgender employee, shows us who they are - just another big brand who seeks to capitalise from a marginalised movement, by widening their audience and attempting to improve their public image."

"Brands need to be aware of their own track record. It's unacceptable to claim to stand with us, if the receipts show a history of silencing black voices," she added. "Speaking out can’t only be “worth it” when you’re white. Black voices matter," she said.

Since speaking out about the issue, a 2017 hashtag which first began when she was fired has been reignited.

Fans are standing in solidarity with Munroe using #IStandWithMunroe to tweet the brand and request that they apologise and provide her with financial compensation.

"Don’t let @Loreal get away with it. Comment on their profile, ask your friends to do the same. Tokenism and performative allyship are disgusting. #istandwithmunroe @MunroeBergdorf," wrote one tweeter.

"Stuff like this is why I’m so sceptical of these companies speaking out in support rn. They use and abuse black women all the way up their production chain, and toss us out when we become inconvenient or go off-script. Then wanna do up ally. Screws L’Oréal man. #IStandWithMunroe," wrote another.

Munroe is currently an editor at Dazed who works closely with United Nations Women UK on creating policies and law.

© 2020 by EMPWR

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