When a moment as significant as the George Floyd protests evolve into what has been dubbed the “Fed-Up-rising,” people are bound to have an opinion about it. On the flip side, those very opinions are open to critique, especially in an era where frustration, desperation, anger and sadness has bubbled under the surface for years and is past due time for an emotional explosion.
Cue luxury brand Off-White CEO Virgil Abloh: A 2019 Root 100 honoree, Abloh has certainly earned his fair share of accolades. But no one is exempt from critique, especially when one’s comments—specifically, someone who has claimed to create art as a voice for the black community—are perpetuating harmful rhetoric.
In a misguided display of respectability politics and condescension, Abloh took to the defense of Sean Wotherspoon’s secondhand store Round Two, which was looted over the weekend.
“This is fucked up,” Abloh wrote in an Instagram comment. “You see the passion, blood, sweat and tears Sean puts in for our culture. This disgusts me. To the kids that ransacked his store and RSVP DTLA, and all our stores in our scene just know, that product staring at you in your home is tainted and a reminder of a person I hope you aren’t.”
Not only did his comments stand out on their own, but people noticed the stark contrast between his and Marc Jacobs’ response on social media, the latter of which used his platform to note, “property can be replaced, human lives cannot.” Jacobs also confirmed one of his stores had been a target of looting, as well.
Twitter promptly took Abloh to task for the insensitive comments, also noting that his philanthropic efforts had been less-than-stellar, given his wealth (and the fact that his $50 donation amount to the FemPower Freedom Fund was the same as many other people’s donations to various city bail funds, many of whom are much poorer than him).
When I’m witnessing a whole damn extended montage of dead black bodies, the vandalism of a building with ample insurance (and apparently, volunteers willing to do the damn work for them!) is the very least of my worries. Further, it’s pretty apparent that in an ideal situation, looting wouldn’t need to exist. But, this isn’t an ideal situation. This is years and years of pent-up emotion. Sure, there may be reports of outside agitators, but we can’t deny the valid frustration of black people, whether they fall under the category of uprisers, rioters, looters or anarchists. It’s dismissive and downright ignorant to condescend to these people, especially when the more respectable “peaceful” protests lead to the very same violent reaction from police (who should be classified as agitators themselves). To deny our rightful rage is to deny our humanity.
A building and the contents can be restored and replaced.
Can we say the same thing about Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade? I think the hell not.