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Hide couture

By Russell Grenning - posted Wednesday, 3 January 2018

This rant went on and on although it didn't actually say how white girls could be – as opposed to should be – stopped from wearing these earrings. Pitzer College which describes itself as a "liberal arts college" and is highly rated currently among the USA's top universities for "Best Ethnic Diversity" had no official comment.

Perhaps there really is a need for fashion police.

Back in 2015, New York University got itself into hot water when it was revealed that it had thirty-four Blackamoor sculptures in its possession, apparently the largest of any known public or private collection. The collection was in an Italian mansion bequeathed to the university by British author, poet and man of letters Sir Harold Acton who died in 1994. Responding to fierce criticism of their inherited collection, Awam Amkpa, Professor of Africana Studies, said, "We thought that instead of simply putting them in storage, we can train students in contextualisation and curation. We can use it to create a wider understanding of how we have seen the black body through the ages."


The university had flung in its corporate face its web page statement that it is "committed to building a culture that respects and embraces diversity, inclusion and equity." On the basis of owning an inherited collection of Blackamoor statues, the university was aggressively described as "racist", "white supremacist" and even "a friend of the Nazis". NYU is still apologising.

Their explanation was simply not good enough for those who think that this allegedly racist art should be destroyed or, at least, hidden away and never again be allowed to see the light of day.

In 2015, an Indian jewellery advertisement featuring the very beautiful and hugely popular Bollywood actress and former Miss World Rai Bachchan was pulled because it featured her reclining on a couch wearing a glamorous gown and some of the Kaylan Jewellers creations. What was deemed racist in the advertisement was that Ms Bachchan was being attended by a dark Indian boy with a huge fan.

There were many mutterings about the fact that Ms Bachchan is fair-skinned for an Indian while the boy was very dark skinned and there were even serious suggestions that she had been chosen for the advertisement not because of her popularity but because of her skin colour which made her look almost Caucasian while the boy portraying her servant was as black as any Indian could be. Another criticism was that the advertisement promoted child slavery.

Of course the jewellers apologised and the advertisement was pulped.

In 2014, necklaces featuring the heads of yellow faced Asian characters had to be speedily withdrawn from sale and banned when a social media storm which, predictably, described the necklaces as "racist". It was alleged that these offending bits of jewellery harked back to the days of early Hollywood films when Caucasian actors wearing makeup played characters such as Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan. That came as a big surprise to the designers and manufacturers but, of course, it is possible that they didn't see this connection because they were inherently anti-Asian and deeply racist.


In 2012 the Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana was deluged with allegations that earrings featuring a caricatured black woman were "racist". Predictably, the earrings were withdrawn from sale.

And while contemplating all of this spare a thought for the current owners of the Hugo Boss clothing empire who still have to deal with the fact that the original Hugo Boss, the founder of the firm, was an ardent Nazi who helped to create many Nazi uniforms including the black and silver outfits worn by the SS and fashion and for the current owners of the perfume and fashion empire founded by Coco Chanel who more or less openly collaborated with the Nazis when they occupied Paris from 1940 to 1944.

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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