The Essence of Essence?

I was intrigued by this headline on CNN today: “The editor of Essence Magazine defended Wednesday her recent hiring of a white fashion director—a first for the 40-year-old publication that celebrates black women.”

Angela Burt-Murray, the editor-in-chief, said “I got to see firsthand her creativity, her vision, the positive reader response to her work, and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand. As such, I thought she’d make an excellent addition to our team. And I still do. This decision in no way diminishes my commitment to black women, our issues, our fights.”

I get the staff’s concern about the lack of visibility of black women in fashion, and that Essence has for a long time been a company where black women can grow and flourish. I had the opportunity to meet the founder of the magazine some time ago and I LOVED him, and after picking up the magazine, I LOVED it. Frankly, I found the information to be very relevant to my life. The themes that the magazine exists to promote—empowerment, self-expression, overcoming prejudice, and sisterhood—are applicable to all women.

I’m curious to hear what you think. Are those who are criticizing Burt-Murray’s decision guilty of “reverse racism?” Can a white woman represent black women’s fashion needs? Have any of you experienced working for a company where one person fought for you and the rest believed you weren’t the right fit?

Essence

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 29th, 2010 at 11:47 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “The Essence of Essence?”

  1. Latisha S Small Says:

    I definitely feel it is reverse racism, and frankly, I am quite upset about it. The hiring of a woman of a different race by the editor of Essence should not have to be defended. Regardless of this individual’s color, if she is qualified and will continue to keep the integrity of the magazine, she deserves to be hired. I applaud Essence for stepping out there and boldly making a change. Forty years is a very long time. I also applaud the individual that took the initiative to apply for a job that targets a minority audience. Congratulations to her on her new position with Essence, I look forward to viewing her work in the future.

  2. Trena Jones Says:

    I don’t think it’s so much reverse racial discrimination as it is fear of losing a “steady” in the industry. For so long we (“we” being black women) have had such a limited amount of “air time” that sometimes there’s fear of being taken over in one of the publications that’s actually dedicated to noticing us. With that being said, I do believe if the fashion director is qualified, by all means, she should have the position! Fashion and common sense (which I’ve found isn’t all that common at all!) crosses all boundaries. And by the way Ms Williams, I’m just recently finding your site and it is full of interesting information which has proven quite helpful for me…and to think I would have missed all of this if I thought your website was just for white women!! lol

  3. Ros Says:

    The questions I would have for Essence is if a women of color was interviewed? The Editor of Essence mentioned that the person hired was a consultant for the company. If you only selected the candidtate because they were hired as consultant where else did Essence look. It would be concerning if no person of color was interviewed. Candidates should be diverse. Essence is a magazine that promotes women of color. I’m curious if they could have developed an individual from within. Successsion planning helps strengthen organizations regardless of color.

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