Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Kimora This Time, Who's Next?

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me. --Attributed to Martin Niemoller, protestant pastor and social activist

While the impetus for Niemoller to speak the oft-quoted words above was a very dark time in world history, they can be applied and have been applied to many different situations. I think they apply quite well to the situation involving Kimora Lee Simmons' dismissal from Baby Phat/Phat Fashions because the relative silence about the matter has been deafening. Where is the outrage by Black media, including radio? Where is Al Sharpton? Where is Tavis Smiley? Where is Essence Magazine's reactive piece? Because while it may be Kimora on the receiving end of this unjust action now, it will be someone else before long.

How can this story be getting such little attention when an absolute injustice has occurred? No, nobody was killed or beaten, but an assault on the spirit of innovation has taken place and that does deserve a closer examination. Kimora is one of only a handful of women of color in an industry that is notorious for discriminatory practices. At the very least, I expect that some of the opinion-makers in Black America will ask some questions about what's happened here. Kimora has stated repeatedly that she did not want to leave Phat Fashions and yet Kellwood Company unceremoniously dismissed her without offering the customer base, predominately urban and African-American might I remind you, a single explanation. In fact, they are still poaching off of sales of Baby Phat wear as customers continue to make purchases, assuming that they are doing so in support of Kimora.

And, lest we forget, the issue is about more than fashion. It's also about the allegations that Kellwood Company dismissed Kimora in part due to the fact that she, a 6 foot tall mother of three, including a not yet two year old baby, allegedly wears a size 10. The allegations alone should have created a firestorm in the media. Discussions about women of color and body image, especially what's acceptible in the "mainstream", the message being delivered to young girls about what makes them beautiful, all of it. Instead, it's been so quiet it's eerie and I don't like it.

So, Kellwood, I will do the job that the media, both mainstream and otherwise, has failed to do. And, I'm pretty good at it, as evidenced by you snooping around here already. But, I'm only just getting started. I didn't have time to go down into the "belly of the beast" this past weekend, but I will and momentum is slowly building. Stay alert. No respect? No dollars. --Sugar

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