Years ago when Essence came under fire for hiring a white woman as the creative fashion director for the iconic Black women’s magazine, I came to the defense of that decision. I still believe that it was the right thing to do. If I wanted to work at Glamour magazine, a publication that primarily focuses on, and highlights, white women, I would want to be considered because of my skills, not based on my race and whether or not I would get white women. Many considered that to be the death knell for the magazine, but I disagreed.
The death knell came way before and went on way after the race row happened. The magazine had featured celebrities on its cover that were counterproductive to its very own message. Putting Reggie Bush on the cover of the “We Love Black Women” issue in 2010 was ridiculous because Reggie Bush, may love Black women, but his dating choices (choices I personally don’t give a damn about) indicated that he loved non-black women more; or at least better to be with, relationship-wise. That was one of many missteps the magazine made that showed how out of touch the magazine was. Is it any surprise then that the latest scandal involving Essence even came about?
I saw this coming years ago when Time Warner completed its acquisition of Essence magazine in 2005. I was disappointed because I knew they’d just sold their souls for money and left their audience–the same one that had supported them for decades–in the dust. I understand, money is needed to run a publication, but this was a slap in the face.
Many other women of color will tell you about different slaps in the face committed by Essence. That much is subjective. All of those are opinions, and you can’t please everyone all the time. Some will like the tone of the writing. Others will not. But how can you explain hiring a bigot to be in a leadership role, no matter what capacity, of a minority woman’s magazine?
Apparently, Essence took on Michael Bullerdick as managing editor last July. There was an uproar because he was white (and presumably male), but apparently that uproar was vindicated because he turned out to be a raging bigot, openly espousing those bigoted views on his Facebook page.
Essence magazine and its white male managing editor — whom the leading magazine for black women has emphasized had a production, not an editorial role — are parting ways, a spokeswoman told Journal-isms Friday, after right-wing material on his Facebook page was brought to the editors’ attention.
“Essence readers would be shocked to find that Bullerdick, who under the prodding of Time Inc became the first white male editor at the magazine last year, openly espouses extremist Right-wing views that run counter to what Essence has historically stood for,” the Journal-isms reader wrote in an email.
In one screen shot, an April 10 posting is headlined, “No Voter Fraud, Mr. Attorney General?” touting a video by James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who worked with right-wing trickster Andrew Breitbart. The same day, Bullerdick shared a photo illustration of Al Sharpton headlined, “MSNBC Race Pimp.” Bullerdick also recommends material from the conservative magazine Human Events and the right-wing website townhall.com, from which Bullerdick posted “the Frequent Bomber Program,” an article about 1960s radical Bill Ayers. Bullerdick wrote, “Obama’s mentor and friend.”
Former readers and current readers can rage all they want at Bullerdick for his views. I don’t agree with his views. I find them highly obnoxious and puerile. I mean, who really posts all of that tripe on their Facebook page? Do you not have any friends to talk about that to in private? Either way, my biggest issue lies with Essence even letting this wolf in sheep’s clothing be a part of an organization that is supposed to uplift black women. People with his views don’t tend to uplift anyone but themselves and the people that look like them. Why hire this man?
Years ago, I stopped reading Essence and have opted for magazines like Arise and Pop Africana (now a blog), as well as Le Coil, Afrobella and other blogs. I’m good. They haven’t had our best interest at heart the last few years and it shows. We don’t get the kind of content that you can find on a blog whose only been in business 1/16th of the time Essence has been in business. The natural hair articles were non-existent or outdated. The same old articles were being recycled. There was not a lot of growth. Essence hasn’t been about us in a very long time. I wonder who’s it for? I blame the people who let Bullerdick in because some prodding would’ve found him out. I’m mad because they let Time Warner buy them and effectively ruin a good thing. Isn’t that what always happens though? When you let everyone in, especially if they have historically not given a damn about your or what you stand for, why would they start now?
Bulelrdick was not fired, he was only moved to another division. Essence, however, has borne and will bear the full extent of the barrage of insults and accusations flying its way. It’s something I get tired of seeing but won’t ever stop. Sometimes, no matter where we are at, it’s just best to scale back or invest what little you have in loyalty than in the almighty dollar. Essence didn’t do that and Essence lost.