the New York Times recently posted a holiday shopping guide for "People of Color", stating that "it's not hard to find gifts created for and by people of color this holiday season", and then going on to list several items that range from Iman's Beauty of Color to wise latina t-shirts. some folks are riled up and labeling it a racist move. in their words, why on earth do people of color even need a separate section and why were certain gifts even selected to begin with?
in our humble opinion, racist is too severe a word; words like ill-researched and patronizing come to mind instead. our blog exists primarily to showcase Africa's budding fashion industry but it has never been our opinion that all Africans everywhere absolutely must support all African designers/entrepreneurs JUST BECAUSE they're African. no, our thoughts are more like this: many mainstream publications simply DO NOT focus enough time and energy on Africa (period!), so there's a clear niche market that needs to be covered. that aside, we support African designers/entrepreneurs where we can and encourage others to do the same in order to focus attention on them (for a change), and also to generate income for them while potentially impacting the fashion industries and economies of their countries. we spotlight several out-of-Africa brands because we're convinced Africa is a HUGE emerging market that shouldn't be ignored and we (Africans and non-Africans) can ALL benefit from "shopping Africa".
to create a shopping guide for "People of Color" that involves the most god-awful gifts leaves us more than a little unsettled*. there's nothing wrong with creating a guide that anticipates the needs of a certain group. in fact, we just might share some of our africa-centered gift-giving guides with you this season. but we'll never ever suggest that you should buy something from an African author/designer/musician for your African friend; we'd simply suggest out-of-Africa (and even non-out-of-Africa) products that might work for just about anyone. if NYT had spent a little more time researching, they may have come up with a more intelligent list that acknowledges people of color as diverse as they are "colorful".
what do you think? we'd love to hear from you!
*the list is not all bad but there are some really baffling choices that severely undermine its purpose.