Just when you’d thought you heard it all.
A Victoria’s Secret model, Devon Windsor, ignited controversy when she claimed she related to the issues faced by women of color because she has blonde hair that requires expensive highlights every month, as well as the fact that she has modeled in various countries where she didn’t speak “Paris” or “Italian.” Yes, she said that.
The sadly misguided comments were made on a reality series, Model Squad, that follows a group of models on their journey through the notoriously competitive world of fashion. When Windsor’s colleagues with African American roots, or Saudi-Pakistani backgrounds recounted their struggles to break into a business known to resist diversity, Windsor bemoaned the possession of the very jobs her ethnically-diverse colleagues saw as harder to attain, by complaining that she felt left out because she didn’t speak the languages associated with the cities she was working in and had to get her hair highlighted monthly. Yes, this actually happened.
If you don’t get a job because your potential employers can’t look beyond something you have no control over, for example, skin color, your livelihood will take a hit. That is NOT okay. If you get passed up for work because of fabricated and harmful stereotypes perpetuated by a system that profits off of discrimination, your livelihood will take a hit. That is NOT okay.
What followed in the subsequent days was an apology by Windsor, acknowledging that her remarks were “insensitive,” and that she regretted making comments that made light of the immense struggle faced by women of color in this industry. That’s all well and good, but I’m not here to discuss a hastily issued apology in the face of backlash. I’m here to reflect on the idea that in this day and age, there are still people who haven’t understood the magnitude of what people of color go through on a daily basis.
If you don’t get a job because your potential employers can’t look beyond something you have no control over, for example, skin color, your livelihood will take a hit. That is NOT okay.
If you get passed up for work because of fabricated and harmful stereotypes perpetuated by a system that profits off of discrimination, your livelihood will take a hit. That is NOT okay.
As of very recently, the news has been rife with instances where girls of color have been ejected from classrooms because of their natural hair texture. Can you imagine? Young girls being denied an education, a basic human right, because of the natural texture of their hair? Could this sound any more ludicrous? An education is the basic foundation upon which an individual would build their life, and it’s being denied to young children over an element of their being that is beyond their control. That is NOT okay.
People of color confront life-altering consequences due to centuries-old colonial discourses that have attempted to manipulate us into seeing certain physical attributes as arbitrarily more civilized than others. Skin color and hair texture are two very common elements of this horrifically discriminatory practice, and guess what? Blonde hair with highlights in conjunction with porcelain skin is not the physical attribute that gets one excluded from certain jobs or a basic education. Comparing a potential loss of livelihood to the expense of a date with your local hair salon, as Devon Windsor did, is NOT okay. It’s frivolous, and emphasizes the complete miscomprehension and callous minimizing of the struggles that people of color have to tackle.