Over the last month or so, I’ve read some crazy stories that made me wonder, ‘Is this 2011 or 1811?’ First up was a page in Italian Vogue highlighting the trend of “slave earrings,” aka teardrop hoops, in a headline. The accompanying text read, ”If the name brings to mind the decorative traditions of the women of colour who were brought to the southern United States during the slave trade, the latest interpretation is pure freedom.”
Now why they have to go and do that there, huh?
Some would say I shouldn’t have expected better as fashion has always had a tumultuous relationship with Black women, from its exclusionary beauty standards to the non-existence of Black models during certain seasons. But among Black fashionistas, Italian Vogue has been a bit of a safe, even celebratory, haven since it began producing an annual Black issue featuring only Black models in its editorial. As each issue was overwhelmingly positive and well received, I thought Italian Vogue “got us.”
Even after the outcry over the supposed trend story — some called the page “insanely offensive” — the magazine still didn’t really get it. By way of apology, the editor-in-chief explained, “It is a matter of really bad translation from Italian to English. The Italian word should have instead been translated into ‘ethnic style’ earrings.”
She totally missed the additional offense of interchanging the words ‘ethnic’ and ‘slave.’ By the following Monday, someone (thankfully) had put her on. The page displaying “slave earrings” had been taken off the site.
Bafflingly enough, slaves were in the news again just a few weeks later when a video trailer for “Slavery: The Game” hit the net. (No, I’m not making that up.) The video depicted a map of the transatlantic slave trade for anyone who was unsure which batch of slaves were being referred to, and promised to transport players back to the 17th Century. The game’s premise was slave masters using a varied arsenal of weapons; rifles, whips, spiked clubs — to abuse the chattel and reach the goal of the game: to become the biggest slave trader.
After all video game platforms, including Xbox and PS3 denied the game was coming, it was discovered to be an elaborate hoax. But it still left me wondering: what was the point, other than to outright offend the entire African Diaspora?
On Tuesday, the racism displayed on the Internet literally hit home for a Black couple in Delaware. The Parsons, who have lived in their neighborhood for 20 years and were once the only Black family, woke up one morning to find a white cross staked into their lawn. The long-standing symbol of hate (and KKK activity) was scrawled with “a racial slur,” according to the Associated Press (my money’s on the N-word) and also included, “Burn in Hell.”
The husband, Wayne Parson, told a local newspaper he was clueless as to why someone would target his home.
I’m clueless about what sparked all of this. Are you?
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Watch her discuss her book on “The Today Show” this Friday.