Essence magazine has fired Elliana Placas, the white fashion director whose hiring in 2010 sparked a firestorm of controversy, including a silent protest during New York Fashion Week. When Placas joined the publication, which imagines itself as the premier lifestyle magazine for African-American women, critics were in an uproar that a white woman occupied the fashion director post for the first time in the company’s history. The thinking went: She doesn’t understand what it means to be a black woman and, thus, can’t represent one in the magazine, and she’s taking the job away from qualified black women who should be given priority. Angela Burt-Murray, who was editor-in-chief at the time, released a statement saying black women have more important issues to worry about. Claims of reverse racism flew in casual conversation and among media outlets.

Now that Placas has been fired (and it’s been a year and some months after Essence replaced Burt-Murray with Constance White), that same conversation about reverse racism is resurfacing.

It does not apply. If White fired her simply because she’s white, wouldn’t Placas have left the company more than a year ago? And it’s important to note she’s not the only white employee at Essence; the magazine also hired Michael Bullerdick as managing editor. (He since has left the company after racially insensitive posts were uncovered from his Facebook page).

It’s distressing that mainstream media looks to situations like this to prove that racism occurs on both ends of the spectrum. I can’t help but think, as this particular story gets more and more coverage, of all the women of color who vie for jobs at fashion magazines and are passed over, not because they aren’t capable, but because of their race. Where are the articles defending them and asking for them to be treated fairly?

The fashion industry has long been an elitist community, with white players rising to the top of the fray. This singular instance, in which race doesn’t even seem to be a factor, doesn’t take away from that.

–Jaclyn Marshall

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  • I was under the impression that it was a privately-owned magazine, in which case, the folks who own it and the ones they hire to run it are the ones who have the final say on recruitment. So why on earth would we turn it into a community affair?

    If I were in charge of hiring for the magazine, and if I thought this lady had something to bring to the table and was the best candidate, I would have hired her. If you want to succeed in business, you can’t think of everything in racial terms. When you want to achieve something with a group of people, you choose the best folks for the job, people you can work with. If they’re all black, so be it. If it’s a mixed group, so be it. But you can’t move forward if you completely shut out people from outside the community. You have to at least be open to them, see what they have to offer. If it doesn’t agree with your larger philosophy, then you are justified in hiring somebody else.

    I think it’s important to realize that creating inclusive communities is not just about making room for racial minorities in predominantly white communities. It’s also about making room for white individuals in predominantly black or brown communities. If we really believe we’re equal to other people, then we have to hold ourselves to the same ideals to which we hold them.

    • Val

      @Rose Kahendi

      Essence is not privately owned. It is owned by Time, Inc. It’s just another Black appearing media outlet that is White owned like BET and TVOne.

  • AltheaGarden

    It’s not reverse racism because reverse racism doesn’t exist.

  • Sick

    Well, if you ask me, Essence has lost it edge!!!! all the models have that same weave going on and the same hairstyles. There is no “edge” in that!!!!! I believe they have lost their way. We don’t all care about celebrities, put some real people in your pages Essence and maybe AA women will come back!!!!

    • Ms. Information

      I was wondering if sales had gone down…I know I stopped purchasing it with all the drama that surrounded it..

  • tight lipped mary

    i haven’t read a good issue in years.
    i am also tired of the same recycled articles year after year.

    i really don’t care about celebrities at all. they can dedicate a page or
    two to celebrity gossip. why is there always a celeb on the cover.

    what happened to the days when a pretty up and coming model was on
    the cover.

    as mentioned there is nothing edgy at all. i now read the magazine when i am
    standing the line at the grocery store.

  • Not enough details about the Placas situation to make an informed decision one way or the other. Maybe she just didn’t meet her deadlines or something. Could be perfectly legit.

    THIS is more problematic. “also hired Michael Bullerdick as managing editor. (He since has left the company after racially insensitive posts were uncovered from his Facebook page). White boy lands a good paying job, and messes it up by showing his racist a** on FB. I think he missed the memo on what it means to be an “ally”.