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The GEM Debate: “Slave Earrings”: Are You Offended?


Okay, deep breath, here we go again.  Once again I am stunned by the ham-handed approach by a big media entity, this time,  Italian Vogue. According to this story, their website touts as one of the hot, new trends,  looking like a slave. Yes, you read that right. Here is their description of the must-have earrings for the fall:

“Jewellery has always flirted with circular shapes, especially for use in making earrings. The most classic models are the slave and creole styles in gold hoops. If the name brings to the mind the decorative traditions of the women of colour who were brought to the southern Unites States during the slave trade, the latest interpretation is pure freedom. Colored stones, symbolic pendants and multiple spheres. And the evolution goes on.”

Well okay then. My issue is not with the earring so much; I think they’re kind of cool. But who in the hell thought it was a good idea to equate a thing of beauty with such a dark and ugly time in our nation’s history? Yes, I know it was Italian Vogue but I find it hard to believe that they are not familiar with the horror that was the slave trade.  When you were in school, didn’t you take world history? Didn’t you learn, at least a little bit, about other countries? I know I did. Surely the inhumanity of that time made it between the pages of an Italian textbook.

I don’t think this is a sin of commission on the part of Italian Vogue, rather omission and insensitivity, which frankly, is just as bad.  They are hardly alone. I have my ideas as to how things like this slip through the creative process but knowing why they happen doesn’t seem to be keeping them from happening (Ni**er-brown handbag anyone?).

Italian Vogue has since changed the description to “Ethnic earrings” but I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; until the suits on Madison Avenue take a trip OFF that pristine sidewalk, check out other neighborhoods and hire some folks who don’t look like them, that will be about the only change we can expect to see.

That’s my take, what about you? Are you offended by the description of these earrings? Should Italian Vogue do more than just change the name? What do you think it will take to make advertisers more aware?




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