Are These Dolce And Gabbana Earrings Racist?

Update 9/27/12: Following the controversy over these earrings, Dolce & Gabbana has given an explanation: the jewelry is “a reference to Sicily’s traditional Moorish-inspired artifacts.” Vogue UK explains, “The show jewellery is reminiscent of ornate ceramics that often appear in Sicilian homes, restaurants and hotels. The head is inspired by traditional Moorish people, a term used to describe the Medieval Muslim inhabitants of Sicily.”  [Vogue UK]

Lots of conversation in The Frisky offices just now about whether these Dolce And Gabbana earrings of a black woman with a basket of fruit on her head are straight-up racist or just … odd. On the one hand, the earrings depict a very stereotypical, some might say colonialist, idea of a black woman: very dark skin, a head scarf wrapped on her head, the basket of fruit.  The earrings are worn by a model who appears at first glance to be Caucasian and Dolce and Gabbana is a European luxury company, which makes it seem as if wearing “black women’s heads as earrings” is a fashion statement about how “exotic” black people are. (Another “exotic” example? Victoria Secret’s “Sexy Little Geisha” outfit.) And it’s not just the earrings that raised eyebrows; style blog Refinery 29 reports Dolce and Gabbana’s spring 2013 collection included “burlap dresses” and “fruit cornucopias” which suggested an ode to “a long-lost colonial era.”

I understand all that. But on the other hand,  if I saw black women wearing these earrings, I would honestly just think they were cool. They are eye-catching upon first beat, even if the second beat is “whoa, those earrings are racist/weird.” But is wearing someone’s head as a piece of jewelry — whether it’s earrings or as a brooch or on top of a hat — offensive on its own? I don’t think so. In fact, wearing people’s “severed heads,” as Refinery 29 put it, dangling from your ears is really funky.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think the earrings in-and-of themselves are racist. But I do think it’s problematic when white women wear them and a luxury company owned by white people profits off them. Just like with Paul Frank and their “Native American-themed” party during Fashion’s Night Out, it shows a certain tone deafness to racial issues that is somewhat embarrassing in 2012.

What do you think of the earrings? Let us know in the comments? [Refinery 29]

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