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Munroe Bergdorf breaks down why standing with Black Lives Matter is about more than just posting to Instagram

Vic Parsons June 4, 2020
Munroe Bergdorf: Black Lives Matter is about more than an Instagram post

Munroe Bergdorf speaking at the Pride In London Gala Dinner 2019. (Venla Shalin/Getty Images for Pride in London)

Munroe Bergdorf has broken her silence on L’Oréal’s controversial Black Lives Matter message that said “speaking out is worth it”.

The company has been widely and heavily criticised for the June 1 message, given it abruptly dropped Bergdorf as its first-ever trans model in 2017 after she spoke out about white supremacy.

Calls for L’Oréal to apologise to Bergdorf – both for its treatment of her in 2017 and for sharing a Black Lives Matter message on the first day of Pride month despite its widely publicised treatment of a Black trans queer woman – have been growing in the past four days.

Writing on Twitter on June 3, Bergdorf said she’d waited 48 hours to break her silence “to see if a public apology was possible”.

“But their choice to ignore me and not acknowledge the emotional, mental and professional harm that they caused me since sacking me in 2017 after speaking out about white supremacy and racism, speaks volumes,” she continued.

“So does their choice not to engage with the thousands of black community members and allies who have left comments of concern on their last two posts, in response to their claim to support the black community…

“…despite an evident history of being unwilling to talk about the issues that black people face globally because of white supremacy.

“Black Lives Matter is a movement for the people, by the people. It is not here to be co-opted for capital gain by companies who have no intention of actually having difficult conversations regarding white supremacy, police brutality, colonialism and systemic racism.

Black Lives Matter is a movement for the people, by the people.

“It cannot be reduced to a series of corporate trends by brands like L’Oréal who have no intention of actually doing the work to better themselves or taking ownership of their past mistakes or conscious acts of racial bias.

“I would not have been sacked if I had said what I said and was a cisgender, straight, white woman. It just wouldn’t have happened. If you want to stand with black lives matter then get your own house in order first.

I would not have been sacked if I had said what I said and was a cisgender, straight, white woman.

“This could have been a moment of redemption for L’Oréal, a chance for them to make amends and lead by example. We all get things wrong, we all make mistakes, but it’s where you go from there that is a signifier of who you are.

“L’Oréal claiming to stand with the black community, yet also refusing to engage with the community on this issue, or apologise for the harm they caused to a black female queer transgender employee, shows us who they are…

“…just another big brand who seeks to capitalise from a marginalised movement, by widening their audience and attempting to improve their public image.

Speaking out can’t only be ‘worth it’ when you’re white.

“Brands need to be aware of their own track record. It’s unacceptable to claim to stand with us, if the receipts show a history of silencing black voices. Speaking out can’t only be ‘worth it’ when you’re white. Black voices matter.”

L’Oréal dropped Munroe Bergdorf for speaking out about white supremacy.

Munroe Bergdorf was announced as L’Oréal Paris’ first-ever transgender model in August 2017.

She was almost immediately subjected to a Daily Mail hatchet job for comments she had made in the aftermath of white supremacist and neo-Nazi rallies that took place in Charleston, US, in the first weeks of that month.

The ire of the right-wing press focused on a post Bergdorf had shared on her Facebook page, which read, in part: “Honestly I don’t have energy to talk about the racial violence of white people any more.

“Yes ALL white people.”

L’Oréal decided to abruptly drop her – just days after announcing their partnership – stating that her comments were “at odds with” its values. The media then hounded Bergdorf for being a “racist”.

More: black lives matter, black trans lives matter, L'Oreal, munroe bergdorf, racism, white supremacy

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