Upheaval at Fashion Institute Over Accusations of Racism

Mar 16, 2020 · 17 comments
Patricia Sun (Reston, VA)
Although I know FIT graduates may also design clothes for the masses, high fashion, with its carbon burning international shows, anorexic and sexually abused models, and ridiculous, impractical clothes, has always been a vacuous waste of resources. Yes, life goes on, and I read this story because it does. But if the Times wants to give a break to It’s corona-drained readers, it can find a more worthwhile topic than this.
Dan Barker (Greeley)
I'm a white man, and I cannot see what purpose the lips and ears could have except racism. Comments about accentuating overlooked body parts, or whatever, are just ways to come up with excuses. This was egregious racism, and deserves a lawsuit. In any case, the elite fashion industry is an abomination. No one would wear these clothes except for other people in the industry or wannabes. And the industry's attitude toward weight is even worse!
Jeff Hanna (Fresno, Ca.)
Of course no one mentions that the "creation" worn by the model - like virtually all the fashions in these shows in the U.S. and Europe - is tiresomely "bizarre" and hideously ugly. The giant lips, monkey ears, and laundry-marker eyebrows fit perfectly with the current fashion ethos of "repellent and outrageous." Big snore. It's sad that these students and their instructors blindly follow this trend.
L (Brooklyn)
I used to be an FIT student. I left the entire fashion industry in the trash because of the racism there.
Craig (NYC)
People should try to be less understanding and more judging. Question everybody’s motives twice and never forgive. I mean how could the Chinese designer student not know about all the cultural insecurities in America subcultures? They’re as obvious and widespread as Zoroastrianism, Sassanidism and Hans Buddhism.
Douglas Klein (Ft Lauderdale)
To much PC and people who get slighted on the drop of a dime.
Howard G (New York)
" The assistant said she overheard one white colleague say: “African-Americans are three-fifths of a human being.” This is a very critical point - because, absent of having actually "overheard" that remark being spoken - it points to a a way many people - many so-called "liberal" and "progressive" people think -- the same people who would be shocked and offended if you suggested to them that they might hold racist attitudes -- Also - "Dr. Brown told the audience that the school had hired an outside law firm to investigate the circumstances around the fashion show." Until we reach a point where it is no longer necessary for administrators to hire outside legal or consulting firms to "investigate" incidences of overt and covert racism - the result remains the same - FAIL ...
Greg Pitts (Boston)
Is she just furious that she was denied tenure?
Max (NYC)
'Some African-American students said they were told that their “bushy Afro” would ruin a fashion show because their hair wasn’t “professional or sleek enough.”' Racial insensitivity is NOT the same thing as being racist. I don't know a lot about fashion shows but I imagine that the model's hairstyle is a key component of the overall look that the designer is intending to showcase. Deciding that a bushy hairstyle doesn't match the "sleek" look of the clothes isn't necessarily racist just because it hurts your feelings. The monkey ears was some kid's overly pretentious idea of a commentary on body parts that are usually overlooked (or something like that). It had nothing to do with race. The "3/5's of a person" comment is offered up as evidence of racism with zero context. Whether the school should have approved a course about cultural bias seems like an issue over which reasonable people could easily disagree. Overall, this is just more indulging of a victimhood mentality.
cds333 (Washington, D.C.)
I am disturbed that the dean, who is herself a black woman, would say that "historically, African-Americans were considered three-fifths of a human being." While I understand what she meant, she is oh so wrong in making that statement. The Constitution provided that, for purposes of determining representation in the House (and the electoral college), three-fifths of the enslaved population in slave states would be included in determining the states' total population. This was one of the key aspects of the Slave Power that ensured that southern states held out-sized political power up to the Civil War. But the enslaved African-Americans were not considered people at all. They were property, with no more legal rights than your car has. As the Supreme Court said in the Dred Scott case, former slaves and their descendants were not citizens and "could claim none of the rights and privileges" contained in the Constitution. They didn't have 3/5 of those rights. They had none. Perhaps I am expecting too much from someone who teaches fashion; maybe it is unfair to ask her to have a deeper understanding of American history. But given the recent grotesque missteps at the school and the disrespect felt by so many people of color who teach or study there, she might want to consider educating herself on these important topics or bringing in an advisor who actually does have some depth of understanding on these critical issues.
Ashley bell (New York)
I agree with your comment. However, just a point of clarification: Dr. Mary E. Davis, dean, School of Graduate Studies, to whom the comment was attributed, is Caucasian. Dr. Joyce Brown, the President of FIT, is African American.
Andy (DC)
@cds333 The article states that the administrative assistant said that, not the dean.
cds333 (Washington, D.C.)
@Ashley bell Thank you for the correction. I should have been more careful in my reading of the article.
Michael Green (Brooklyn)
It would be interesting to do an investigation of nepotistic and crony hiring. My assumption is FIT just like most colleges and the public school system hire people because who they know or are related to.
Michael (Santa Monica)
@Michael Green Having been a university employee for many years, I believe you're right about your theory--mostly. Well concealed behind a veil of a battery of interviews with many "candidates."
Anonymous (New York)
The department hires who it wants. The issue at FIT is the people who run the department are the racist ones. Since they’re protected by tenure, they can’t get fired even though us students have reported them to title nine on numerous occasions. It’s really sad how much power racism has over here.
Don Juan (Washington)
@Michael Green -- yes, by all means, let's do that. And then look into the hiring of the post office.
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