If you turn on any news station, odds are you will hear about the recent controversy revolving around Virginian politicians and the blackface scandal that has surfaced in the past week. The two under fire for doing blackface in their past include Governor Ralph Northam (D) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D). Ralph Northam was the first accused when a yearbook photo of him in blackface was recovered and put into question. Northam at first came out denying that he appeared in the offensive photo, eventually coming clean and apologizing for his actions. Mark Herring, admitted after the Northam accusation, that he too wore blackface at a college party and apologized for his actions. With this, Virginia's Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) has admitted to editing his yearbook for the Virginia Military Institute in 1968, allowing many photos of blackface to make their way into the final product.
This news of these offensive actions has caused people to question the morals of these politicians and with good reason. The history of blackface dates all the way back to the 1830s before slavery was abolished and was a racist tradition that continued in the United States, showing African Americans as lazy, cowardly, and hypersexual. The popularity of these blackface shows gained in popularity after the civil war, continuing throughout the 20th century. The use of blackface at the time was viewed as a form of comedy but we recognize today that these practices were proof of racism ingrained throughout past American societies. The Virginia scandal, that is coming into light during Black History Month, is a horrible reminder of the racism that was present in the United States and how a politician's past could contradict the values they say they stand for. Many people have begun to wonder what's in the water in Virginia but as it turns out, Virginian politicians aren't the only ones who have been chastised for participating in this haunting tradition of blackface.
Fashion brand Gucci is one that has been very prevalent in the media over the years, but this week the attention has not been for positive reasons. Creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, has been under fire before for the lack of cultural representation in the company and the practice of cultural appropriation that has been present in many runway shows. The lack of diversity in this brand has been discussed and criticized before by those who follow fashion regularly, but this recent controversy has put Gucci in the glare of publicity. Over the past week, the brand released a sweater that was a little too reminiscent of the same offense Virginian Politicians are under fire for. The garment quickly caused an uproar by many as it appeared to be a variant of modern day blackface, as it was modeled on the website by a white model, and the timeliness caused it to be recognized in the media even more.
This sweater was on the Gucci website for $890 but, the sweater's offense cost the company much more. The racist sweater was taken down from the website soon after the negative response and an apology was made by the company immediately following. Some were quick to forget about the fashion news as if it never happened, but many were not accepting the apology calling for a boycott of the brand. Many rappers have decided to boycott the brand including T.I., Soulja Boy, and many more all who were big investors in the company. Things are looking murky for the future of Gucci but hopefully, this condemnable mistake is a warning to other fashion brands to be more mindful about the clothing they decide to release and when they release it. Racism will always be a part of American history but it's important to recognize it as our past and not integrate it into our present. Hopefully, these actions will become an opportunity for learning and not a new trend.