Hipster clothing retailer, American Apparel, owns a long rap sheet of racist misdeeds and consequences. Some of their most flagrant offenses, were hiring only black women with natural hair, considering women who receive permanent treatments “trashy” as well as losing a $343, 000 lawsuit for a racial slur. Probably the most offensive and lingering racist misconduct, the company also released an ad depicting a black female model made up like a “mammy.” This ad came out less than two years ago.
Women of the white community always want to say that the fight to end racism ended with civil rights. After all, don’t we have an African American president? Yet, these women isolate and disenfranchise their black sisters. White women fail to acknowledge their own privilege which is detrimental to the women’s movement. You can’t make progress when you are leaving half of your population behind.
The American Apparel practices serves as a perfect example of this attitude. With the limited amount of black models, one could say the retailer targets a white or mainstream audience. The hiring practice of selecting African American women because of their hair is reprehensible, yet, sadly understandable. Racism exists everywhere today, and to deny black women this fact, is to invalidate their own experiences. Trending “natural hair” on black women, trivializes a big decision in their lives. Many of these women are simply born into a world where they can either love and be themselves, or struggle to conform to a European standard of beauty they can never match. They can never be white. The decision to accept ones hair, to quit fighting, takes courage, and it’s totally degraded by a white community who takes the hair at face value as “trendy” and “looking cool.”
“They cannot escape their history anymore than you can lose yourself in your shadow.”
-Zadie Smith, White Teeth
Wright , Daniel. American Apparel to Pay $343,000 for Racial Slur. BET , 2011. Web. <http://www.bet.com/news/national/2011/07/07/american-apparel-to-pay-343-000-for-racial-slur.html>.