When Meghan Markle dreamed up the theme for her Vogue cover, do you think she anticipated how much controversy it would create? Now, Meghan’s Vogue is being criticized as not white enough by British press — most overtly by Telegraph columnist Camilla Tominey. Referencing Prince Harry’s comments about unconscious bias in the media, Tominey accused the Duchess of having bias of her own, evidenced by her 15 Forces for Change including “only” five white women (and no men). Sadly, Tominey is not the first to suggest this — but on the bright side, Twitter is fiercely standing by Meghan’s side.
The quote most cited from Tominey’s Telegraph column is the same one The Telegraph used to promote the story on Twitter: “I wonder whether Meghan was conscious of the bias she showed in choosing 15 ‘forces for change’ for the Vogue cover, all of whom were women, of which only five were white?” Obviously, this is an inflammatory statement: Part of the “change” that Meghan (and so many others!) would like to see in the world is shifting attention away from white men, who have held the spotlight for far too long. It’s no accident or even “bias” that Meghan selected “only” five white women — it was very specifically her goal to highlight women of color who know better than anyone the need for change, and have been denied a voice for generations.
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"I wonder whether Meghan was conscious of the bias she showed in choosing 15 ‘forces for change’ for the Vogue cover, all of whom were women, of which only five were white?" writes @CamillaTominey https://t.co/FSGmJINa4Z
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) August 3, 2019
From the very first line, Tominey seems to know how her comments will be received. “May I make the following remarks without being accused of racism (either consciously or unconsciously)?” Tominey writes. “Probably not.” Clearly, she read Harry’s comments about racism in the press, but she doesn’t seem to have any interest in considering that his words might have value. Instead of questioning why people will accuse her of being racist for writing this — and perhaps interrogating how her ideas on race have been formed — she dismisses any attack on her writing as alarmist and irrelevant out of hand. It’s a terrifically narrowing and dangerous outlook for a journalist to have.
“If I was pale, male and stale, I’d be feeling pretty discriminated against right now,” Tominey writes later on. Are women still paid less than men in the UK? Are racially-motivated hate crimes still on the rise? Are people of color still more likely to be victims of homicide, live in substandard housing, and be excluded from education opportunities? Yes, yes, and yes. Tominey is welcome to address the hurt feelings of white men all she wants. But to even use the word “discrimination” to describe their exclusion from a Vogue cover is a painful and insulting distraction from the true discrimination running rampant every day — in Britain, and across the world.
My heart bleeds for Camilla 💔
2002-2014, no individual black model got a British Vogue cover. Former editor Shulman gave two black models solo covers during her 25-year tenure as they “would sell fewer copies”
But Camilla only got 5 faces on this 1 cover to represent her 😢 https://t.co/qJXZaPWQur
— Kimberly McIntosh🙅🏿 (@mcintosh_kim) August 3, 2019
Much of Twitter has chimed in condemning Tominey’s sentiments as both preposterous and acting in service of white supremacy and institutional racism. “How many white women would have been acceptable for Meghan to have chosen?” one muses. “It’s so telling that when a single edition of a single publication doesn’t explicitly center whiteness, Britain’s right wing media goes into attack mode,” another adds. “This is how institutional racism works.”
Hi, question for Camilla here – how many white women would have been acceptable for Meghan to have chosen? Thanks
— Mollie Goodfellow (@hansmollman) August 3, 2019
This is the worst take I have ever had the displeasure of reading. How embarrassing. https://t.co/1LxfKv9Exe
— Black Girls Book Club (@bg_bookclub) August 3, 2019
It’s so telling that when a single edition of a single publication doesn’t explicitly centre whiteness, Britain’s right wing media goes into attack mode. This is how institutional racism works. https://t.co/K8CzmfMz9o
— Sister Outrider (@ClaireShrugged) August 3, 2019
"I wonder whether Camilla Tominey was conscious of the bias she showed in attacking Meghan for her Vogue cover choices?" wonders every non-racist ever.
— Edwin Hayward🦄🗡️ (@uk_domain_names) August 3, 2019
The Telegraph wants to lecture Meghan Markle about unconscious bias, as they continue their campaign against the first mixed race member of the royal family, who they’ve taken against for some mysterious reason they can’t quite put their finger on. https://t.co/TFCHsANOSC
— Laura Kate 🇪🇺 (@cakeylaura) August 3, 2019
One person pointed out how Tominey’s comments fall in line with the now-long list of The Telegraph’s white female journalists who bombard Meghan with criticism, further suggesting that Meghan’s status as the first nonwhite member of the royal family has everything to do with it.
The Telegraph’s white female journalists are relentlessly critical of Meghan Markle, whipping up a frenzy of false controversies about her. They play up racist stereotypes by depicting the only royal of Black heritage as a hostile, demanding diva who doesn’t know her place. pic.twitter.com/zhGVmQpfNc
— Sister Outrider (@ClaireShrugged) August 3, 2019
What Prince Harry said is true: The second the word “racist” is thrown out, people lose sight of everything except trying to prove they don’t deserve the title. But we sincerely hope Tominey takes some time to reflect on why it bothered her so much that Meghan chose 10 women of color to feature, and why her criticism has evoked such a powerful response. No one wakes up in the morning hoping today will be the day they get to call someone a racist, and Twitter isn’t delighting in its criticism of Tominey so much as tending to the wounds her words created. If Tominey could expand her understanding of how it feels to be excluded to the entire nonwhite populations who have felt that sting for centuries, that would make Twitter truly happy — consciously, unconsciously and everything in between.