After Essence announced the hire of a white fashion director, a group of vocal opponents surfaced and broadcast their concern on Facebook, Twitter, and many other places around the Internet. The magazine’s editor, Angela Burt-Murray, penned an opinion piece addressing the issue head-on for the Grio. She explains that she hired Ellianna Pracas, who has worked at O: The Oprah Magazine and Us Weekly, because she was impressed by the work she’s done running the fashion department as a freelancer over the past six months. She heralds Placas’s “creativity, her vision, the positive reader response to her work, and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand,” adding, “I thought she’d make an excellent addition to our team. And I still do.”
Burt-Murray acknowledges that the fashion industry is “overwhelmingly white,” and writes that she’d like to see more black women “on the mastheads of all the magazines, seated in the front rows of the shows, designing our own fashion lines, and contributing our special flavor and flyness to the world of style.” But she also wonders why her hiring a white fashion director stirred so much more outrage than many of the other issues Essence has addressed:
But interestingly enough, the things I think should most upset people and inspire boycotts and Facebook protests, often seem to go relatively unnoticed. Like when Essence conducted a three-part education series this year on the plight of black children falling through the cracks in under-performing schools. Crickets. When we reported on the increase in sex trafficking of young black girls in urban communities? Silence. When our writers investigated the inequities in the health care services black women receive? Deadly silence. When our editors highlighted data from the Closing the Gap Initiative report “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth and America’s Future” that showed that the median net worth of single black women was $5? There went those darn crickets again. When we run pieces on how unemployment is devastating black men? Nada. When we run story after story on how HIV is the leading cause of death for black women age 18-34? Zilch. The things that really are the end of our world apparently aren’t.
She said in an additional statement, “We remain committed to celebrating the unique beauty and style of African-American women in Essence magazine and online at Essence.com.”