Atlanta’s episode “White Fashion” is a story that most People of Color know whether they’ve experienced the industry personally or not. For most of our lives, we’ve seen examples of Black Culture, Media, Art, and Ideology colonized by White industry without any regard or credit given to the hands from which it was stolen. In “White Fashion,” as well as many other cases, we’ve seen companies, media, and musical artists “borrow” works and references from Black Culture without giving any regard to the works' original meaning as well as the implications of using the works without the knowledge, history, and understanding of its origin. A recent example would be last year’s Walmart Juneteenth Ice Cream release. The company released ice cream and apparel to “celebrate” the now federal holiday. As Walmart has no prior history of celebrating holidays and the culture of POC, it was obvious that the company was using Juneteenth for profit. Without this knowledge and sense of accountability, companies distort and pollute the work for the sake of monetary gain. Now that we’re in the age of social media, it’s easier for this type of colonization to be called out and addressed. Unfortunately, more often time than not, we’re presented with an inadequate apology without any true sense of accountability.
This lack of accountability rings true in Atlanta’s episode of “White Fashion.” When the French company is called out for using “Central Park 5” in their apparel line, their reaction is to put together a press conference apologizing using well-known Black activists and artists who are willing to push their apology for their own benefit as their new “Diversity Team.” The “Central Park 5” incident was an incident that involved five young POCs that were convicted of rape and assault when there was clear evidence that they were not involved. Despite that lack of evidence, they were still sentenced to 6-12 years in prison. Even though they were later released, it was predatorial and tone-deaf for a non-POC-owned company that showed no previous support for the incident or for POC to profit from it. Like the Walmart Juneteenth Incident, lack of real accountability ultimately allows companies to use the practice of “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission” to make money without any real consequences.
A true consequence and step forward would be to address the companies’ practices and way of thinking from the ground up, as well as to remove or truly reprimand the members of the company that are responsible. While a “Diversity Team” seems like a productive idea on the surface, what should be addressed is why there isn’t enough diversity in the company, to begin with.
A true sense of diversity would have also been effective in preventing the show’s gentrification of the Nigerian restaurant “Eko Chops”. In this scene, Darius takes a white woman named Sharon to a Nigerian restaurant called “Eko Chops”. While eating, Sharon is fascinated by the food, décor, and vibe of the restaurant. Soon after their meeting there, Sharon buys the location in order to open her own Nigerian-styled food truck. While it’s acceptable for Sharon to be fascinated with the restaurant’s culture and food, having a more diversified team or diversified friend group could have informed her of how her actions lacked a sense of understanding, nuance, and respect for the Nigerian community and its cuisine. Her actions led to the closing of a family and Black Owned business as well as a warped version of the works she was trying to emulate.
This episode was so relatable it was comedic, but it was also a call out to the practice of many companies today and how better decisions could be made by having a better sense of diversity and awareness at a base level. Companies, artists, and businesses can avoid these mistakes by practicing a hiring process that prioritizes creating a team with multiple backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. Atlanta’s “White Fashion” does a beautiful job showing the awkward and obvious racism that companies practice and portray. I loved seeing how all the characters reacted to their individual situations. Whether you’ve seen the other episodes of Atlanta or not, this episode is definitely worth the watch.
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