It’s Couture Week in Paris, so *of course* our Insta feeds are flooded with behind-the-scenes goodies from all our fave fashun people. (Hi, Aimee Song, we see you looking *the most chic* despite your luggage getting lost in transit.)
But one recent BTS pic definitely ruined our happy, Insta-stalking vibe. On January 22, digital entrepreneur, street style darling and former fashion ed Miroslava Duma posted an Instagram story featuring a note that contained the N-word. We wish we were kidding.
The note came from Duma’s friend, Russian designer Ulyana Sergeenko, just casually accompanying some flowers. So yeah, we’re still at the point where we have to explain to white people that it’s really never okay to say the N-word. Cool.
Of course, we’re not the only ones giving Duma and Sergeenko serious side-eye over this situ. The internet at large was most displeased that Sergeenko thoughtlessly used a racial slur—in writing, no less—and that Duma thoughtlessly posted it. (BET’s lifestyle editor, Danielle Prescod, made an excellent point about about how someone’s, ahem, famous friends might not be so into this misstep, for example.)
But it’s 2018, so thoughtlessness isn’t really going to cut it as an excuse.
In addition to the approximately 3,000 CNN debates on the N-word, why white people aren’t allowed to say the N-word, if anyone should get the use the N-word, and whatever other variation on the theme that Don Lemon’s producers were feeling between 2014 and, well, now, many smart people have offered well-reasoned explanations for why non-Black people should just leave this one alone.
Last summer, Ice Cube schooled Bill Maher after the political commentator casually dropped the word on an episode of Real Time. “[The N-word is] a word that has been used against us; it’s like a knife, man,” Ice Cube explained. “And you can use it as a weapon, or you can use it as a tool. It’s been used as a weapon against us by white people, and we’re not gonna let that happen again by nobody, because it’s not cool. Now, I know you heard [it], it’s in the lexicon and everybody’s talkin’, but that’s our word now. That’s our word now. And you can’t have it back. I know they’re tryin’ to get it back.”
Then, in November, writer and cultural critic Ta-Nehisis Coates gave a literally perfect explanation for why some groups are “allowed” to use certain words and others aren’t: “Words have context,” he said. “My wife with her girlfriends will use the word ‘bitch.’ I do not join in. I don’t do that—and perhaps more importantly, I don’t have a desire to do it.”
This DISGUSTS me. To see Mira post something on IG so casually using this racial slur, and then have Ulyana defend the usage with such a bs excuse makes my blood boil. So tired of “fashion girls” thinking that listening to one rap song gives them the right. pic.twitter.com/P5XHVnNXaX
— Callia A. Hargrove (@calliarmelle) January 23, 2018
But, some people do have the desire to say words they don’t have a right to. In this case, Sergeenko cried: “Kanye West is one of my favorite artists, and NP is one of my most favorite songs. And yes, we call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe we are just as cool as the guys who sing it.”
The “apology,” which was posted on Instagram, has since been deleted—but that wasn’t the last Sergeenko had to say about the situation. As Garage magazine’s Rachel Tashjian reports, the designer was deeply upset… that this controversy had distracted people from her show. “As I thanked Sergeenko and [her design partner, Frol] Burimskiy for taking me through the collection of exquisite handmade lace and coats appliquéd with pink mink flowers, I asked Sergeenko about what had happened that morning,” Tashjian wrote. “Tears almost welled in her eyes. ‘I’m so upset that I spoiled it,’ she said of her show.” Um. As Chloe King, Bergdorf Goodman’s social media and digital PR manager, noted… that’s still not an apology.
For her part, Duma also posted a short Instagram apology that mentioned her deep respect “for people of all backgrounds” and how she “detest[s] racism or discrimination of any kind.”
“My organizations and I are committed to our core values of inclusion and diversity,” she claimed. But it hasn’t done much to stem the tide of criticism she’s facing—or protect her from the consequences of her actions, for that matter. She’s been removed from her position on the board of The Tot, the parenting-focused lifestyle brand she co-founded in 2015. And while Kim K. hasn’t responded publicly, some fashion peeps have spoken out, including former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth.
But it is. And while we can’t quite believe any public figure would be quite so dumb as to post a racial slur on social media, we’re especially blown away by Sergeenko’s explanation. Truly, we can’t think of a less convincing excuse for using a racial slur. “Oh! We just wanted to pretend to be cool!” “Oh! We’re just huge rap fans!” More like, “Oh, I felt entitled to use a word that I know has a painful history because I am used to treating Black people and other people of colour as props in my own carefully-curated life.”
And btw, when it comes to Duma, we mean that literally. Case in point: a shoot she styled for her fashion site, Buro 24/7, which featured a photo of Garage magazine’s then-editor-in-chief, Dasha Zhukova, sitting on a chair made to look like a Black woman wearing bondage gear.
This shoot attracted backlash when it was first posted in 2014, but in the wake of this most recent misstep, it has garnered even wider attention, including angry posts from some seriously big-name stars, including hiphop icon Questlove.
And just in case you thought Duma only said and did racist things… well, as Harper’s Bazaar Australia reports, she’s also made homophobic and transphobic comments about street style photographer Bryanboy and transgender model Andreja Pejić.
According to the mag, during a Q&A with fans, Duma was asked about her thoughts on Bryanboy’s style and “female fashion being modelled by men,” including Pejić “advertising women’s swimsuits.” She responded, “Honestly, I dislike that. Because somewhere, on TV or in a magazine, a little boy could see it and that boy wouldn’t understand it correctly, wouldn’t react correctly. And I think a certain kind of censorship and refined culture is needed here.” She also said she wouldn’t feature Bryanboy or Pejić on her website, “because she is concerned with the ‘beauty and purity’ of what she publishes, and went on to call both ‘weird people,’ ‘thanking God’ that ‘there aren’t that many of them.'”
So yeah, we’re definitely seeing those core values of inclusion and diversity. (Insert eye-rolling emoji here times infinite.)
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