The sound of the #FedUprising was loud—and Virgil Abloh couldn’t help but hear it.
The CEO of luxury brand Off-White took to social media on Monday night to release a lengthy statement in response to the mass critique he received after he commented about the looting of a streetwear store. The tone of the comment was wrapped in respectability politics and most of the critique he received was based on misguided prioritizing.
“Let me start with a few central facts,” Abloh began. “I am a black man. I am a dark black man. Like dark-dark.”
“As many have said, buildings are brick and mortar and material things can be replaced, people can’t,” Abloh wrote. “Black lives matter. In this moment, those other things don’t. People who criticize ‘looting’ often do so as a way to make it seem like our fight against injustice isn’t legitimate. I did not realize the ways my comments accidentally contributed to that narrative. As mentioned yesterday, if looting eases pain and furthers the overall mission, it is within good standing with me.”
Ultimately, when we discuss looting, we have a lot to unpack and reckon with. We currently live in a society where an already disproportionately displaced community is struggling through a global pandemic and turn to desperate measures such as looting, which in turn, could disproportionately affect the very black people living in that community. To me, the bottom line is: the responsibility and burden lie not on these displaced people and their choices, but the system that strategically placed them in a situation where they’re forced to make said choices.
Additionally, many people called out Abloh for only donating $50 to one of the bail funds. Abloh had posted a screenshot as part of a fundraising campaign where people matched the donations of their peers and posted the evidence so that someone, in turn, would follow them. However, by publicizing such a donation, Abloh opened himself to critique, and naturally, people wondered if that was all he donated. Some questioned that since he decided to publicize that donation, it didn’t seem logical that he’d hide whether he donated more. However, Abloh confirmed that the $50 wasn’t where his philanthropy for this particular cause ended.
“I can understand your frustration if you think my contributions were limited to $50,” Abloh wrote. “Purely false when it comes to the total. I have donated $20,500 to bail funds and other causes related to this movement. I will continue to donate more and will continue to use my voice to urge my peers to do the same. I was on the fence about publicizing dollar amounts because I didn’t want to look like I’m glorifying only higher amounts or that I want to be applauded for it. If you know me, you know that’s not me.”
In addition to monetary donations, Abloh expressed the significance of creating further opportunities through his work, citing his 2018 Louis Vuitton show which centered black men, and upcoming projects such as “Community Service,” a platform designed for emerging young black artists and designers.
“It’s not just money that solves, my particular aim is to change opportunities for young kids that look like me to design and ascend to the same position I have,” he noted.