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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Black is Beautiful

I read something interesting in the Diamondback a couple of weeks ago regarding one of the companies I just happen to work for: Abercrombie & Whiteness.

Let's deconstruct the article.

I found it interesting that the evidence cited for Abercrombie's racism is, exclusively, a 2003 EEOC class action suit that was settled out of court, with A&F not admitting fault. No discussion of employment demographics or incidences of specific abuse. Just that there was a lawsuit that was settled out of court.

There's also a claim made by the author that the Look Policy amounts to tacit racism. I found this sort of funny:
In the training manual for brand reps known as “The Look Book,” A&F calls for a “natural, classic, American” look and prohibits its brand reps from having shaved heads or dreadlocks. The Look Book also prohibits gold chains for men and also stated that women wearing hoop earrings or dangling earrings were “unacceptable.” By using these racially charged guidelines that covertly played off of silly class and racial stereotypes, A&F was able to maintain a predominately white middle/upper-class workforce.

I, as everyone who is hired as a Brand Rep, have a copy of the Look policy. Other things that the look policy prohibits: facial hair on men, excessive makeup on women, wearing hats, no ostentatious jewlery. Oh, and my personal favorite, you cannot wear black. At all. So while he's technically correct that a small subset of the Look policy would keep someone from wearing gold chains, it also keeps someone from being a Goth. Is it an unreasonable policy? Not really - if you're wearing gold chains with most of the clothes from A&F, you'd look ridiculous. The allegation that the Look policy is somehow racist is ridiculous. It's like saying someone working at Barney's wearing a suit is discriminatory, because it prohibits wearing a Kimono.

Moreover, the author specifically notes that A&F hires minorities. The problem he has is that they work as Impact (stockroom). For one, the distinction between Brand Reps and Impact is a hazy one, at best, since we all do basically the same stuff - though Impact typically doesn't do greeting or registers, and BRs don't box or scan.

As such, I'm not sure what the problem is. Does the author contend that being a BR is automatically more desirable, and as such, keeping someone from folding polos is altering the dynamic of the communities, where A&F, as its sole employer, is engineering a racially-based class system? No? That's unconscionable hyperbole? Then who cares?

The real bitch of the article is the implicit assumption that there exists out there some objective form of human aesthetic that A&F is denying by using white Brand Reps. Take, for example, the following statement:
The majority of white America has always been deeply invested into strict notions and definitions of beauty, and unfortunately, blackness has never truly been fully integrated into this definition.
That's becuase there is no 'definition'. It's not like white folks got together and said, "Hey, let's define the people we're going to be attracted to as white!" There was no Section 603 of the White People's Convention on Fuckable that set up a strict legal definition of attractive, and they forgot to amend with Sec 603.b: Black Folks Are Cute, Too. Newsflash - most people find other members of their own race to be more attractive than members of other races. There are a myriad of exceptions, but the general rule is: White fellahs date white chicas. Black fellahs go for the black chicas. Interracial coupling is more common than it used to be, but it endures as the exception.

Given that - A&F has a mostly white demographic. Why would you not use the people your demographic finds attractive? Rocawear doesn't use skinny white sorority girls because they're not trying to draw in the SigEp, collar-up crowd. The models for any product are going to be the people that their target market wants to see using that product - right down to those "I've fallen and I can't get up" ads. Clothes are bought to make a person look good, so you find the people that your buyers will think are the hottest. There's no objective statement about beauty being made in there - it's just marketing.

People need to get over their race issues. There are too many actual instances of discrimination and too many actual racists to waste so much time and energy attacking a clothes retailer who doesn't hire the people you want to fuck.

cranked out at 1:01 PM | |

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