Monday, July 4, 2022

Met Gala: Discrimination, Inequality Plague Star Studded Event at Taxpayers Expense – Many Black Owned Media Kept Out

*The Met Gala wrapped this week and the buzz is still going strong as media continue to spotlight the dazzling and innovative fashions, celebrities, and love couples that marked the star-studded event.

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But the elite event masks a story of discrimination and inequality.

The theme itself “gilded glamour and white tie,” was designed to inspire guests to pull  from an era that championed the elite’s excessive wealth. However, as Insider’s DeArbea Walker reported, the Gilded Age’s grandiosity was often underscored by rampant inequality.

For Black people, the gilded age was characterized by brutal and cruel oppression, strict segregation, KU Klux Klan violence and lynchings, and a post-slavery world where African Americans suffered under Jim Crow laws that affected every aspect of their lives.

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Gilded Age factories up north were akin to present-day sweatshops and accidents often occurred, resulting in workers losing limbs, becoming permanently disabled, or even dying. Children were also expected to work in dangerous conditions, as the first child labor law wasn’t created until 1938. Unbridled discrimination against Black workers was the norm.

Gabrielle Union Questlove, and actor Cynthia Erivo highlighted the oppressed who were victimized by America’s Gilded Age. Gabrielle Union used red crystals to honor the “blood spilled” by people of color during that era. Union said she was inspired by the Black and brown people who helped build America.

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“Because when you think about the Gilded Age and Black and brown people in this country, this country is built off of our backs, our blood, sweat, and tears,” Union, 49, said People reported. “So we added these red crystals to represent the blood spilled during the accumulation of gross wealth by a few during the Gilded Age, off of the backs of Black people and people of color in this country.”

Questlove wore an oversized black jacket with matching pants and a white button-up shirt honoring Black southern women quilters.

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“I’m here representing Greg Lauren and Gee’s Bend quilters, who are these women from Alabama,” Questlove, 51, told Vogue. “For African Americans in this country, the Gilded period is a little bit different for our story, so I wanted to highlight Black women who’ve sacrificed for the country.”

Smithsonian Magazine reports that Gee’s Bend residents began making quilts in the 1800s.

Actor Cynthia Erivo paired a white headpiece with her all-white gown to celebrate Black women from 1800s Louisiana saying that 19th-century Black women of Louisiana inspired the headpiece.

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We’re trying to tie the American lexicon together, and this is inspired by women of Louisiana from the 1800s, who had to cover their hair for necessity,” Erivo told Extra. “I wanted to tie those things together because those women don’t get the credit they deserve for the fashion.”

Essence Magazine reports that the Tignon Laws of 1786 were passed in Louisiana which required women of color to cover their hair in knotted headdresses.

The inequality and discrimination of the gilded era was also reflected in the Met Gala’s decision on what media was allowed to cover the glitzy event.  Many U.S. based Black and Latino-owned media , including EURweb.com, were essentially barred from covering, despite the fact that much of the attention and success the Gala generates is from the invited African American celebrities from Cardi B to Viola Davis.  While most celebrities are sponsored by fashion houses and don’t pay to attend, tickets to the invite-only event are $30,000.

Initially, the Met did not respond to queries about how many media owned by people of color were given credentials but following the EURweb article, they disclosed that two Black owned media were credentialed including one owned by a Nigerian company that serves Africa and two Latino owned media including one owned by a non-US based Hispanic company.  Therefore,  only one U.S. Black owned media and one U.S Latino owned media were credentialed out of all the media allowed on the Red Carpet.

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African Americans and Latinos, as taxpayers,  help fund the Met Museum. As a nonprofit institution, the Met does not have to pay any taxes and thus is subsidized by American citizens. In addition, New York City – through its many Black,  Brown and other city taxpayers – provides approximately 10 percent of the museum’s funding according to the Met. Almost all of the Met’s philanthropy has been tax-deductible. The Met’s endowment draw is tax-free. It pays no capital gains taxes. These exemptions have cost taxpayers billions of dollars. The Met is arguably America’s biggest tax-subsidy museum beneficiary according to Art Magazine. Tickets for adults to visit the museum are $25.00.

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The Gilded Age was an era of heartless conditions for workers.  Employees used the theme to accuse Condé Nast’s “Vogue Magazine” of poor treatment and exploitation.  Employees penned a statement about the glitzy annual affair,  organized by the fashion magazine, saying, “the Met Gala’s sparkle comes from our sweat.”

“Behind the cameras, there are hundreds of Vogue workers who are underpaid, undervalued, and overworked,” says the statement sent out as celebs began to arrive on the carpet for fashion’s biggest night.“We are assistants, producers, and freelancers who work tirelessly in the months before the Met Gala, managing a million details so that, when the first Monday in May comes, the night looks effortless.”

“Without us, the Met Gala simply could not happen. But Condé takes our labor for granted, forcing us to accept low pay, long hours, and unpaid overtime all for the benefit of ‘prestige.’ Prestige doesn’t pay the bills. Prestige doesn’t pay the rent.”

The letter claims that last year the company made more than $2 billion, “yet many of our colleagues earn salaries that barely allow us to even make rent.”

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Condé Nast employees unionized in March and are calling on the company to voluntarily acknowledge their organization.

“We’ve been waiting for union recognition for over a month,” reads an Instagram post from Condé United. “We deserve to be fairly compensated for our around-the-clock work, and we deserve to do the work we’re proud of without fear of losing our jobs, working without healthcare, or working overtime without pay.”

Perhaps the Met Gala’s theme this year was perfectly appropriate.

What do you think about the Gala and the Gilded Age?

Jazmyn Summers

Follow Jazmyn Summers @jaztalk1 on InstagramTwitterFacebook and subscribe to Jaz’s YouTube channel.

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