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Gucci is the latest fashion brand to spark a blackface controversy

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Gucci’s chief executive, François-Henri Pinault, has spoken out about the uproar his company found himself in last week when social media users complained that its balaclava sweater resembled blackface.

Pinault told the Wall Street Journal that Gucci’s parent company, Kering, needs to be more culturally sensitive to African Americans. While the luxury conglomerate has teams who review products for the Asian market, they don’t have similar groups in place to review how sensitive products are to African Americans.

“It’s true we don’t do that for the African-American community, and that’s a mistake,” Mr. Pinault said.

Last week, Gucci issued an apology for selling a sweater resembling blackface and pulled it from stores. The black turtleneck-style sweater features an opening with a pair of bright red lips that can be stretched around the wearer’s mouth. To many people on social media, the $890 sweater looked like the blackface makeup used historically by white performers to mock and make caricatures of African Americans.

”Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper,” the company said in a statement. “We can confirm that the item has been immediately removed from our online store and all physical stores.”

The company, part of the French luxury conglomerate Kering, said that it was “fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization” and that it considers the controversy over the sweater to be a “powerful learning moment.”

The uproar over the sweater comes as fashion brands have recently found themselves ensnared in racial controversies and photos of Virginia politicians in blackface have led to calls for the lawmakers to resign.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted Wednesday that, while attending the University of Virginia, he wore blackface to look like rapper Kurtis Blow at a party in 1980. Herring’s admission followed the discovery of a photo of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam allegedly in blackface in his 1984 medical school yearbook. Northam, a fellow Democrat, said that he had worn blackface to dress up as Michael Jackson.

But Virginia isn’t the only state roiled by blackface controversies. Last month, Michael Ertel, Florida’s new secretary of state, resigned after pictures of him in blackface mocking Hurricane Katrina victims surfaced. Blackface controversies have even hit the news media, with NBC’s Megyn Kelly resigning last fall after remarking she didn’t understand why blackface was offensive. She later apologized.

The blackface controversies and the racial tensions in the country generally have affected fashion brands as well. The fashion brand Prada pulled figurines in December after a passerby at its New York store said they reminded her of blackface. The figures, known as Pradamalia, have dark skin and exaggerated red lips, the hallmarks of historic images used to denigrate African Americans.


A group of Prada figurines have been compared to racist caricatures.

Prada pulled figurines that ignited a blackface controversy.
Chinyere Ezie

Fashion has also been rocked by other racial controversies. In December, a former Moschino worker accused the brand of racially profiling black customers by using the code name “Serena.” The month before Dolce & Gabbana ads were criticized for stereotyping Chinese people.

Be they fashion brands, politicians, or news anchors, no one in today’s highly charged political climate can expect to escape scrutiny for bigotry. But the fact that these incidents continue to happen shows just how deeply entrenched racism is in society.

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Viral Traffic Optimizer – Haz dinero con tráfico viral

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Oakland teachers strike: Union calls strike for pay, smaller classes

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Teacher frustration keeps spreading.

Public school teachers in Oakland, California, said they will strike on Thursday, following 18 months of tense negotiations with district officials over pay raises and classroom sizes.

“We have had it. Enough is enough, bargaining with our school district has not worked,” said Keith Brown, a middle school teacher and president of the Oakland Education Association, during a press conference on Saturday. “Our schools have been starved of resources for years.”

If they don’t reach a deal before Thursday, about 3,000 teachers won’t show up to work in one of the state’s largest school districts, which has struggled from years of budget cuts and poor student performance.

Teachers say the lack of investment in city schools is hurting student performance. The cost of living in Oakland has also skyrocketed in recent years, due to an influx of high-skilled workers unable to afford housing across the bay in San Francisco, making it impossible for teachers to live there on their current salaries, Keith said. Teachers want a pay raise, smaller class sizes, and more counselors and nurses.

The strike in Oakland would come a month after teachers in Los Angeles walked off the job with similar demands — and ended up getting a lot of what they wanted. At the time, LA officials said the same thing Oakland officials are now saying: We just don’t have the money.

Oakland schools are facing a $56 million budget deficit in the next two years, so the school board wants to cut school spending, not increase it. School officials are trying to get more money from the state, but teachers are ready to walk out. And they know they have leverage.

It’s just the latest strike in what’s becoming a national trend. More than 100,000 public school teachers in six states have walked out of class in the past year, rebelling from years of stagnant wages, crumbling infrastructure, and deep budget cuts to education. The strikes in Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, California, and Colorado had broad public support, forcing state lawmakers to raise pay and fueling a national movement to boost investment in public education.

So far, that momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

Funding for public schools in California is a mess

Oakland teachers share a lot of the same frustrations that led LA teachers to walk out of class in January. They say school districts are spending too much money on privately run charter schools that have little public oversight. They also believe they are paid too little working in a state with much wealth.

California is among states spending the least on each student (adjusted for the cost of living), largely because of the state’s strict limits on property tax rates.

The Oakland Education Association, a labor union representing 3,000 educators, has been trying to negotiate a new contract since the last one expired in 2017. Teachers want a 12 percent pay raise over three years, smaller classes, and more support staff. One school counselor for every 600 students is not conducive to a student’s success, says Keith Brown, the group’s president.

The district has offered a 5 percent raise over three years.

Teachers rejected the offer.

“Unless there are dramatic changes to the district’s approach, including spending more money on students and for nurses and counselors, lower class size, and a living wage that will keep Oakland teachers in the classrooms, we will strike,” Brown said.

The school district has said it is willing to keep negotiating for a better deal to avert the strike, and would consider some recommendations from an independent panel, which found that low teacher pay, large class sizes, and school privatization were hurting Oakland schools. The report also acknowledges the state’s “complicated, flawed” system for funding public education.

“Despite our challenges, we are prepared with a comprehensive proposal to reach an agreement. If both sides are committed to settling the contract before a strike occurs —and we are — an agreement can certainly be reached without disrupting the educational experience for students, families and staff,” Oakland Schools Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said in a statement Saturday.

They have three days to try and reach a deal.

Teachers are leading a national workers revolt

A record number of US workers went on strike or stopped working in 2018 because of labor disputes with employers, according to new data released last week by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A total of 485,000 employees were involved in major work stoppages last year — the highest number since 1986, when flight attendants, garbage collectors, and steelworkers walked off the job.

Frustrated public school teachers were behind the year’s largest walkouts, but hotel housekeepers and steelworkers also organized strikes that lasted for days.

There are no signs that worker angst has subsided. So far, in 2019, teachers in two major cities have launched their own strikes. And in January, the Los Angeles teachers strike shut down the nation’s second-largest school district for more than a week.

As part of their deal with city officials, teachers agreed to a 6 percent raise and slightly fewer students in each classroom, according to Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, a labor union that represents about 34,000 public school teachers, nurses, librarians, and support staff in the city.

Last week, more than 2,000 teachers in Denver went on strike for three days. The school district ended up giving educators and extra $23 million in pay and agreed to overhaul the compensation system, which relied heavily on annual bonuses.

Now Oakland teachers are prepared to walk out, and Sacramento teachers may follow.

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