In mid-February, a video surfaced online of John Galliano making anti-Semitic remarks toward a couple in a Paris restaurant. By the beginning of March, he was fired as chief designer at Christian Dior and it was recently announced that he was fired from own his label.
While watching his untimely fall from Grace both professionally and in terms of public opinion, it made me wonder: would Galliano have been fired from both of his positions if he made racist remarks about black people?
It’s no secret that the fashion industry lacks diversity. Fashion Week runways barely feature black models, editorials save for the “All-Black” issue of Italian Vogue and occasional spreads featuring models of color barely employ black models and a handful of black designers show their collections during Fashion Week. But on top of a lack of diversity, overt racism has also had a presence in the fashion industry.
In the early half of this decade, there were Internet rumors that Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren stated they did not want black people wearing their clothing. Tommy Hilfiger just put that false rumor to rest only last year but there was no investigation into his remarks when the allegations were made. Black people continued to buy his clothing just like we continue to buy from designers that do not feature models that look like us in their shows and read magazines that do not use models who represent us.
Trade in Tommy Hilfiger’s name with John Galliano’s, fast-forward a couple years and it’s a logical conclusion to draw that the reaction would be the same. If Galliano’s racist remarks against blacks were caught on tape, we can assume he would have been fired eventually but not in the swift manner he was when he practiced Anti-Semitism.
It most likely would have been a long drawn-out effort with a lot of roadblocks from Galliano supporters in the fashion industry and dare I say it, still financial support from many people of color. When Galliano’s video and accusations first gained international attention, it seemed a few calls were made and he had found himself jobless. There was no Jewish equivalent of Al Sharpton making the rounds on national news stations calling for Jewish people to boycott from buying all Christian Dior products until Galliano was removed. Or asking Jewish people across America to join him in a protest to express their anger with Galliano’s remarks. I’m not saying the Jewish people didn’t express their anger; in fact, Natalie Portman, a proud Jewish person, and face of the Miss Dior perfume made a statement saying she would not be associated with Galliano in anyway. However, Galliano was fired and for the most part, chastised by the fashion community, almost immediately and unanimously.
What would you attribute for the difference in the way Galliano and Tommy Hilfiger’s remarks were handled? Would Galliano have been fired if he made racist remarks about black people?