This past week, as protests and police brutality continue in the wake of the death of a George Floyd, more and more awareness of systemic racism – an equally deadly pandemic – is brought to light. More accountability is called for, including within the media industry.
The media industry is finding their customers and staff, including former employees, will not remain silent as they call for editors, CEOs, founders and other leaders to step down.
Editors At Multiple Publications Resign
Bon Appetit’s editor-in-chief, Adam Rapoport, has stepped down from his position when racist images from 2013 resurfaced. Many allegations have since sparked of the racist culture at the publication, including lower pay for people of color, zero pay in some circumstances and more. Conde Nast, which publishes Refinery29, has denied the allegations.
Refinery29 editor-in-chief and co-founder, Christene Barberich, has also resigned, due to many former staff members coming forward about the racism they experienced while working under her. Stories from these staff members came out after the website blacked out its homepage in support of Blackout Tuesday. On Twitter former R29 employees like Ashley Alese Edwards expressed their frustration. “Cool blacked out homepage! But you know what real allyship looks like? Paying your Black employees fairly, having Black women in top leadership positions & addressing the microagressions your Black employees deal with from management on a daily basis.”
“Cool blacked out homepage! But you know what real allyship looks like? Paying your Black employees fairly, having Black women in top leadership positions & addressing the microagressions your Black employees deal with from management on a daily basis.” – Ashley Alese Edwards, on Twitter
Other editors who recently stepped down include James Bennet (New York Times Opinion Editor) and Stan Wischnowski (top editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer). Both men are accused of perpetuating a racist culture and publishing racist content, with headlines such as Wischnowski’s “Buildings Matter, Too”, which has since been taken down.
CEOs And Founders Of Feminist Brands Step Down
Yael Aflalo, the founder of Reformation, a popular women’s clothing brand known for a commitment to environmental sustainability, faces allegations of racist action at the company. She is still the CEO, but had taken a “step back” in 2018, and admitted that she was “was not a very good leader.” Former general manager, Elle Santiago, posted about the treatment on Instagram.
“If you want to change Reformation, start at the head with its founder, Yael. When I first met Yael I was so excited to introduce myself as her flagship’s assistant manager. She looked me up and down in disgust and walked away.” – Elle Santiago on Instagram
Jen Gotch, the founder of the stationery brand, Ban.do, was also accused of racist behavior. She stepped down from her leadership role after making a statement, admitting to her white privilege and racism and apologizing publicly via Instagram.
“Yesterday I was called out on social media by multiple current and former employees for being racist, for creating and helping to propagate a racist company culture, and for building a brand that espouses inclusivity but doesn’t consistently reflect that. I am guilty, and not only am I guilty, I have been so ignorant and so insulated by the ease and comfort of my white privilege, that up until just a few days ago, I would have passionately and sincerely denied negatively impacting others.”
A Continued Response Is Needed
The resignations are a start, but they are not the end. We must continue calling out the unfair treatment and systemic racism, and demand that our media and nation does better. If you have been discriminated against or harmed in any way because of the color of your skin, please reach out. Tell your story. Seek support and safety from those who you know you can trust.