Vogue executive quits after "slave-themed photo" posted

In 1991, five people of ethnic minorities were in­vited to appear in a picture showing the diversity of Ford’s Dagenham workforce.

Five years later, the image was used again by Ford’s agency, Ogilvy & Mather, for a promotion in Poland. But because it did not accurately portray Eastern Europe’s ethnic mix, the faces in the photograph were replaced by white ones.

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Obviously, the solution would be to put a white woman in traditional dress and replace one of the black women with her. I’m pretty sure nothing could go wrong there.

I think a lot of money could be made with a database of every publicly available image of slave owners, white supremacists, colonialists, Nazis, etc, and a service to check your photos against it before publishing to social media. It’s important to remember that the day after you post the photo, it will turn out that everyone was already aware of the 19th century photo that you’re reenacting.

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She should have posted it with this Black Panther photo.

Meaning from the colonial era.


Seems like less of a colonial era photo recreation and more of a colonial era re-enactment party? Or is it just contemporary colonialism that happened to leave a photo? There’s some context I found from reading other articles about it, but it sounded to me like the women were used sort of as a prop with different guests sitting in the chair. In that context, I understand a lot better what this is about. If I threw a party for myself in an old plantation and posed my guests with two actresses styled like Butterfly McQueen in “Gone With The Wind” and I was a famous magazine executive, I’d bet people’d say something. As well they should.


Never understood the appeal of picking really terrible times or events to re-enact.

On trips to SC, I make an effort to avoid places with plantation in the name. Unfortunately, they are popular locations for theme weddings and showers:

At one of these events, it would be great if someone helped the staff to escape or staged a rebellion - just to make it a more authentic experience.


Not exactly. These dresses are used nowadays by the sellers of Acarajé, a regional delicacy.

These dressed have a strong cultural meaning.


Doesn’t mean the imagery in this particular context isn’t laden with historical and racist meaning (being seen in a service position to a rich white woman).


I couldn’t agree more.

Even the white chair have a cultural and religious meaning.


Someone should’ve bought that woman a book. (Not that she’s especially likely to have read it.)


Having lived in Brazil and been to Bahia, I’m struggling with this one a little bit. I obviously can’t answer this question, but to me it seems important whether the Baianas themselves think this is racist. From everything I’ve heard, the Baianas are fiercely proud of their culture and dress. https://theculturetrip.com/south-america/brazil/articles/an-introduction-to-baiana-de-acaraje-traditional-dress/

I don’t know the circumstances of this photo, of course, and it certainly is a ‘bad look’ for a fashion executive (as evidenced by all this hand-wringing over it), but on its face is this really any different than a white tourist posing for a staged photo with hula dancers in Hawaii? Or perhaps a white tourist visiting Malawi (where I live and work) accepting an invitation to take a photo with black dancers after a cultural performance? Are those not ok either and, if so, why? Simply because of the skin colors of the people involved and the historical power imbalance between a white visitor and the local people of color? Does how the participants feel about it matter?


That’s what I was trying to figure out. Is this something they planned and recruited people for or is this just part of the effects of Colonialism that rich white tourists get the old “Colonial Master” treatment when they host galas there? Then I kind of realized it doesn’t matter. Whether it’s conscious or not there’s going to be that question because it’s worth asking “should we do it this way…” Meaning whether it was her idea or some one else’s it’s probably worth asking why that felt so natural etc. The linked article is pretty vague on those kind of details, but it sounds like the people getting upset originally are locals. I also note, no one originally was gunning for her job… merely pointing out that the photos represent a sort of continuation and celebration of Colonial era oppression.


Well I grew up near, and used to work in The Hamptons. A bit of eastern Long Island famous as a tourist/seasonal resort town for the incredibly wealthy.

And this shit looks awful familiar. There’s a certain set of rich and wealthy that really want to play act colonialism. You see a lot of houses and estates designed to look like southern plantations, or French south east Asian or Polynesian plantations, or Brazilian plantations.

You get the point, they’re obsessed with plantations. It’s very chic there for interior design and architecture.

But parties where the whole staff are a specific non white group dressed in uniforms that evoke a certain time period and particular servant class, or just slaves, are a thing. Everything decked out in the particular aesthetic of the appropriate white overlords.

A lot of those parties were run by fashion brands, magazines, and pricey liquor and wine companies.


The “comparison” picture is strikingly different - the slaves in the slave picture, for one thing, look like they’re there against their will, where the women who are standing in the non-slave picture look like they’re enjoying themselves as much as the woman who’s sitting. And the carrying chair in the slave picture is nothing like the chair in the non-slave picture. The people in the new picture were all there voluntarily, the Brazilian women wearing the traditional dress of the local culture, which they are justly proud of. Why is this called a “slave-themed photo” in the headline? None of the hallmarks of slavery are there.

Most Americans are profoundly ignorant of the extent of slavery in the world, past and present, and think that slavery was just imposed on black people by Europeans and was then continued in the US until the civil war. Yes, that happened, but at the same time as the first sub-saharan African slaves were being shipped to the Americas, Spanish Catholics were enslaving Dutch protestants and working them to death as rowers on war galleys, Turks and corsairs from the Magreb captured Christians from the shores of Italy, Spain, Greece etc and sent them into slavery, also working them to death in mines and galleys, and Christians, including the representatives of the Pope, were capturing both Muslims and Christians and sending them into slavery, often also to be worked to death. And that’s just some of the slavery that existed in that limited time and place. It’s all well documented - slavery is not race-specific in most times and places, and was almost never limited to black people except in some parts of North America.

This, of course, is never taught in American schools - if it were, a lot of the mythology about black people which white supremacists believe would be undermined, since slavery as a state of being would be disconnected from race, and understood to be an evil result of violence and greed.

Slavery of all kinds shares the same basic theme - you are treated as property, have no rights, and you’re forced to work on pain of disfigurement or death.

None of that is in this new photo, although it’s all there in the old slave photo.

Police in Vallejo CA just murdered another black man, and nothing much has been done to reign in this continuing police brutality and institutional white supremacy in the US. That would be a more useful place to put one’s energies, in my view.

I understand now, I think, why some people are making such a rumpus over this ambiguous photo, after reading some of the comments to my original posting. But it doesn’t give me much hope for us getting out of the mire of racism that afflicts us all, since so many people seem to have such a rudimentary and cartoonish understanding of the history of how we got here. And since so many people seem to have a hard time understanding how facts need to be based on evidence, not just emotion. As they say, you can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.

In your personal opinion.

This is not the “Persecution Olympics”, and the picture is still highly offensive, regardless to intent.


Why, it’s as if you think people can’t do both. Why in the world do you think they can’t do both?


@Milleifink - They certainly can’t fight against police brutality and object to fashion photos at the same time. And very few people who think this kind of issue is Very Important are contacting their local police department to find out what anti-racism traning they are giving their officers. You know this is true.

My point was that this is an example of spending your time attacking something which is ambiguous and trivial, time which could be better spent dealing with something serious.

It’l like people attacking Alec Baldwin for using ‘coc ksuc ker’ as an expletive, while ignoring their local Orthodox Church, which is virulently and actively anti-gay.

Did you read any of the rest of my comment?

@Melizmatic - Entitlement is entitlement, and taking it from one group and giving it to another does not change the damaging nature of entitlement.

What makes you think that your list of questionable assertions about who is entitled to make observations about racism, homophobia, misogyny, etc is useful?

By your rules of entitlement, the Supreme Court was not entitled to find that state laws banning equal marriage were mainly based on homophobia (there aren’t any openly gay or lesbian Justices, so they “don’t get to decide what is homophobic”). So your list is homophobic, since following it would have prevented equal marriage from becoming constitutionally protected. I’m a gay man, so I’m entitled to say it’s homophobic, based on your rules - and if you’re not gay or lesbian, you just have to suck it up and agree that your list is homophobic. Do you begin to see how your list is non functional? It excludes white legislators from defining racist acts as racist, it excludes men from identifying and stopping sexist, misogynous behavior in the workplace - and on and on. Entitlement is damaging when it is used to prevent good behavior in excluded groups, and your assertions would do just that.

Also, saying that you are offended by a picture does not address whether or not you have sufficient understanding of the picture’s actual content and context to make an evaluation which is worth anyone elses’ respect. Of course your response is valid for you - but it is not necessarily valid as a meaningful critique.

Someone could ask why you’re wasting time making this comment instead of saving kittens in trees.

If you think there’s something more serious, put it out as a topic. Chasing people off this topic isn’t going to do much.


@tuhu - I did, in fact, put out another topic I thought was more serious - police murder of non-threatening black men, and the institutional racism which protects and promotes that brutality. Didn’t you notice that?

And my comment was serious too - conservatives and white supremacists love it when people who say they are progressive get caught up in a firestorm about an ambigous photo like this. How many tens of thousands of hours have been wasted trashing it on the web? The Right knows we’lll be much more likely to sucessfully push back against them if we pay attention to the actual steps they’re taking to damage us, instead of spending so much time infighting and searching for easy things like this to be offended by.