A racial storm in British popular culture space is a big issue because it is magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Ebony, Cosmopolitan or Readers Digest which serve the geopolitical interests of great powers more than their awesome military machines. They do that by providing the frames by which the world is made intelligible. It is for that reason that they are regarded as spaces of geopolitical action, much, much beyond the glamorous and consumerist outlook some moralists reduce them to.
A security guard who told the Editor-in-Chief of iconic popular culture magazine, Vogue, to “use the loading bay” on his entry into the office Wednesday was therefore striking at the sensitive spot. Instructively, he was fired for doing so. The details of the encounter as spilled by the BBC indicates Mr. Enninful subsequently posted on his twitter account as follows:
“Today, I was racially profiled by a security guard whilst entering my work place. As I entered, I was instructed to use the loading bay. Just because our timelines and weekends are returning to normal, we cannot let the world return to how it was”.
In a more explicit post on his Instagram account where he has a million followers, the editor said: It just goes to show that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you’ve achieved in the course of your life; the first thing that some people will judge you on is the color of your skin”.
He then disclosed how Conde Nast who owns British Vogue “moved quickly” to dismiss the security guard who was named in the BBC story. The guard is being investigated.
Mr. Enninful is, however, pushing for wider changes, a coded language for harsher resistance to racist practices. He has been Editor-in-Chief of Vogue since 2017, making the creation of a diversity sensitive, “open and fair” magazine his promise to the industry.
However, some people would say that he foresaw Wednesday encounter much earlier. For, according to the BBC, Mr. Enninful had said last month while receiving an industry award that it would be disingenuous for him not to place on record that he is the first black to win the award in 40 years. While acknowledging progress on diversity in the magazine, he, however, asked questions about who is being hired, who is being nurtured or who is being promoted and who gets to the top or is treated better in the work environment.
The statement suggests how not too far he might have gone with his ambition to accomplish the idea of diversity he entertains when he said on taking the job that “It is about diversity – showing different women, different body shapes, different races, different classes (and) tackling gender”. The BBC story quotes him as saying then that “My vogue is about being inclusive”. Interestingly, Enninful holds the OBE status since 2016.
It is a bit puzzling that the racial divide is coming top the agenda at a time of the highest cosmopolitan and multicultural consciousness across the world. And it is coming up to the point that race, rather than class, is prompting a global revolt against inequality. The protests are, however, multicultural. The protesters in major cities in the Western world are not all blacks but a mixed grill, yet, their slogan is the #BlackLivesMatter stuff. Is race and class brewing into a radical, decentering brew?
If that happens, then all social theorists have to go back to the library. For, it would mean a defeat of the thesis of fragmentation advanced by both Marxists and post-Marxists. While Marxists such as Terry Eagleton insist that fragmentation is ‘natural’ and helpful to capitalism, post-Marxists have told us that fragmentation is such that even the individual is a collection of fragments as to make impossible talking of subjectivity in a coherent sense. Except for post-Marxists who talk about articulation by which a contradiction is politicised, (which is what is happening in post-Floyd US), there looks like a theoretical cul-de-sac!