Every so often, we’re forced to utter some variation of the phrase, “This is still happening in [insert contemporary year]?”
Whether it’s the consistent racism in an idealistic (and non-existent) post-racial society or the fact that we’re still experiencing “firsts” in Black history, we’re continuously reminded just how much further we have to go, despite celebrating the progress we’ve made along the way. This all brings me to British Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Edward Enninful.
On Wednesday, the magazine’s masthead leader recounted an incident in which a security guard racially profiled him by instructing Enninful to enter the UK headquarters office via the loading dock.
“Today I was racially profiled by a security guard whilst entering my work place,” Enninful tweeted. “As I entered, I was instructed to use the loading bay. Just because our timelines and weekends are returning to normal, we cannot let the world return to how it was. Change needs to happen now.”
In an Instagram post, Enninful confirmed parent company Condé Nast “moved quickly to dismiss the security guard” and per CNN, the parent company confirmed the security guard was subsequently “placed under investigation by their employer.”
“When will this change? Been happening in UK for so long ... so sorry you had to go through that!! Don’t let it deter you. Stay STRONG,” longtime friend Naomi Campbell commented on his social media post.
“It just goes to show that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you’ve achieved in the course of your life: The first thing that some people will judge you on is the colour of your skin,” Enninful concluded.
On that same note, we’ve had countless discussions about respectability politics and how it does not protect you from any aspect of racism in life or in death. I mean, even the Black man who once held the highest position in the nation (and the Black woman by his side) experienced his fair share of blatant racism. This idea absolutely applies to Enninful’s situation. He is a leader of a leading fashion magazine, yet none of that protects him from the micro- and macro-aggressions Black folks of all levels experience every day.
With his appointment as British Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief in 2017, he became the first Black editor in the elite fashion bible’s 101-year history. One. Hundred. And. One. Years.
“Today’s consumer wants more than garments on a page and shopping lists (though you must never go shopping without Vogue’s definitive edit),” Enninful wrote in his very first editor’s letter for the magazine’s December 2017 issue. “Fashion is a conversation, the continual dialogue between you, the Vogue reader, and the times we live in, fusing fashion with art, politics and society. These days, that conversation does not end with the magazine. I have been a champion for digital and social media content for more than a decade, and am excited for the next stage.”
As Enninful said then and reinforced this week, this is a “continual dialogue.” Whatever we once thought as “normal” pre-pandemic isn’t what we’ll be stepping into on the other side. Accountability must happen. Change must happen. No excuses.