On the 31st of August, The Daily Mail released an article addressing Munroe Bergdorf for a comment taken out of context and misquoted; a comment made by the model on the 13th August on a Facebook post in response to the white supremacists, and a Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville. Munroe Bergdorf, the first trans model to book a skincare campaign for L’Oréal beauty was dropped by the brand with immediate effect. In contrast, 4 days later, Hetty Douglas was involved in an incident shaming blue collar workers, she was portrayed as fragile and almost blameless in the face of the uproar she received, a classic example of white victimization.
Back to Munroe, and backlash received was the worst time of her life, which speaks volumes about society. The type of slurs and insults that followed Munroe’s comment were highly aggressive, violent, racist, transphobic, homophobic, including threats of rape and death. All completely disproportionate to the action itself.
Munroe spoke on the topic within her creative group Pxssy Palace on Radar radio. She reiterated “calling someone a racist is not a slur, calling out racist behaviour is not a slur, calling someone the ‘N’ word is a slur.” So why was there such anger and rage towards Munroe Bergdorf?
Munroe informed us that once people realised she was biracial, the media attention reduced. It was still a hotline bling but there was a definite drop in attention… Could it be, that only white people feel they have reserved the right to call out racism?
On the 4th September, just 4 days after Munroe was thrown under the bus, Hetty Douglas from Nottingham blasted into the spotlight. Hetty, whilst waiting in McDonalds spotted two workmen, she took their picture and shared it online with the caption “They look like they got 1 GCSE”. Her comment, with its bias and stereotype used to judge and insult the workmen, went viral.
Her degrading comment was a clear example of classism. Further certified after twitter detectives found her Instagram displaying her latest art pieces, “You’re peng but your English is shit.” Hetty Douglas became the poster child for gentrification. The world came together in protecting the harmless victims who unknowingly became targets of her abuse.
Rather unsurprisingly and in less than 48 hours, Hetty Douglas and her snobbery had The Independent hailing her a “victim”. In a knee-jerk manner publications followed The Independent’s new victimised approach, comparing the defence taking place online to a “lynching mob”. Hetty Douglas was protected and forgiven in less than a couple of days, a product of a process which compared to the treatment of Munroe, can be called white victimization.
Despite Munroe merely stating a current racial issue within society, in comparison to Hetty’s ill-mannered comments, Munroe was forced to endure a further 8 days of interviews across news outlets. Instead of bringing up a discussion on “society’s Infrastructure,” Munroe was thrown to the lions. Time was spent wasted on the syntax of her comment. It was a bid to bully Munroe into apologise and retract. The clear disparity of the media’s driven perspective was very telling.
Similarly, in the face of @piersmorgan (known for his aggressive and arguably ignorant approach to journalism), complaining that HE feels targeted as a white man having had the racist structure he sits on called out, Munroe stood her ground (without PR training) in a classy and articulate manner. Whilst being talked at, she maintained poise. Celebrities such as these, encourage the widespread racial illiteracy she is being attacked with. Not only is it frightening to see but also proves Munroe Bergdorf’s point. It gives us a clear view of what white supremacy looks like without the chanting of ‘white power’, KKK gang, their torches, guns, swastikas and the confederate flag.
Thankfully, restoring my faith in humanity, Clara Amfo, the radio 1 DJ & Model cast in the same campaign as Munroe wrote “If she’s not ‘worth it’ anymore, I guess I’m not either” on an Instagram post in solidarity with Munroe. The show of individual show of support created #IStandWithMunroe. We may not be media power houses like Tabloids but we all have a voice. This is the kind of unity the world craves.
Munroe Bergdorf is now the face of a new beauty campaign for Illamasqua, and announced this on her Instagram with the caption “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”. Munroe’s strength has been impeccable, I urge you all to show her the upmost love, send positive messages and encouragement. Munroe needs to know she is far more loved than she can ever be hated. She was subject to constant abuse online, even going as far as death threats, and L’Oréal did not issue an apology. The clear message sent by L’Oréal, “calling someone racist is actually worse than being one.”
L’Oréal used Munroe’s image to perpetuate diversity. How long will we allow brands to abuse black and brown bodies for financial gain whilst disregarding who or what they represent? For how long will we let white people play the victims whilst tearing down PoC for expressing themselves? My message to young black girls, go where you are truly loved. Create your own opportunities, the possibilities are endless, YOUR capabilities are endless.
Written by Mulan Itoje