The editor of Essence Magazine shocked the fashion industry and the black community this summer by hiring the magazine’s first white fashion director, Elliana Placas. Essence magazine, which has been celebrating black women for the last 40 years, serves as an important publication for black fashion and culture. I understand the public’s concern on whether a white woman could have the same connection with her predominantly black community, tackling on the issues and concerns important to the magazine and to the black community but I credit the editor for making such a bold decision based on the qualifications of Placas, race aside.
Critics against the decision argue that by hiring a white woman, the magazine is taking a step backwards for the progress of black women not only in the fashion industry but in the journalism industry. It saddens me that after the Civil Rights Movement of more than 50 years ago, blacks, especially women, are still struggling to be seen for their talent and not their race in the business world. The fact that industries like the fashion industry and that of journalism are still lacking in minorities in something that our society must face and take steps to change. We should do all we can to raise our status as minority women without taking down another race and treating them how we wouldn't want to be treated.
Essence made a statement with the hiring of this white woman that they
are stronger than ever and more confident than ever to feel comfortable
having a white woman on the main staff. I think we should complement
their action to hire without discrimination based only on race than
criticize them for somehow making the magazine less black.I do, however, think that magazines directed towards specific cultures such as Essence, should definitely be comprised mostly of a staff that can connect to and reflect that culture. As a Hispanic I would hate to flip through Latina magazine only to find out that most articles are written by non-Hispanics. But this doesn’t mean that the publication has to hire no one but women of color. I don’t think that the fear of losing a certain cultural edge of a magazine should be reason to deny a white writer because of their race.
Essence strives to eliminate racism, sexism and all other barriers blocking African-American women to reach their potential. This is why their decision to hire a woman without any discrimination against her race is such a powerful statement. While I think that it’s very important to raise the status of minorities in fields such as journalism, I also think it’s important to focus on the bigger picture: eliminating racism. Essence is and will always be a powerful publication for women of color. I hope that readers can see past Placa’s race and judge her work for what it is.