Elliana Placas

August 13, 2010 

We don’t know much about Elliana Placas recently hired as Essence magazine’s new Fashion Director. I suspect Angela Burt Murray the Editor and Chief’s decision was based on personality, familiarity and chemistry, as well as a proven track record. The two are in sync having a prior working relationship on an established team. This decision was personal irrespective of race. While some see it as a betrayal of Essence’s mission Angela Burt Murray was being loyal to her own beliefs and vision for Essence. We can only accept and respect that decision.

Similar decisions without transparency are made daily in corporate America where qualified Black applicants are frequently passed over. We know African Americans struggling against the vestiges of slavery have longed been wronged by American society. We know hiring decisions are not always based on qualifications alone.

We know African Americans earn far less than whites. There has not for some time past been much progress in reducing the gap in pay. Per-capita income for African Americans is only $18,054, compared with $28,502 for white Americans. African Americans earn just 57.9 cents for every dollar earned by whites. Over half of all working African Americans over the age of 15 earn under $35,000 per year; 10.8 percent of all whites earn over $100,000 per year, while just 3.3 percent of African Americans have reached that mark. Some have argued that much of the gap in pay is due to differences in educational achievement. Only 19.7 percent of African Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 32.6 percent of whites. My own observations suggest a majority of highly educated Blacks aren’t doing much better than the less educated. But I digress, back to Elliana Placas:

We know that Black style like Black music is unique. There is a particular ethnic aesthetic. Black female bodies are distinct and in need of designers who are sensitive to and able to highlight their unique features. Can a white woman bring the necessary skill knowledge and ability in critiquing and editing for the taste of black women? Angela Burt Murrays thinks so. It is neither impossible nor improbable–after all our music is often imitated. That is our gift.

And after all is said and done we know Elliana Placas deserves the opportunity. We simply wish there were more opportunities for African Americans in fashion. The day of greater equal opportunities will come, and come it will. We know.

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