These days, many organizations, brands and even entire industries are often criticized for the lack of diversity in their workforce. Be it gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, businesses large and small have come under fire in recent years because of their failure to communicate about diversifying their talent.
So, it is even more surprising that rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West recently became a center of controversy for seemingly trying to do just that.
In preparation for his upcoming New York Fashion Week show, West tweeted a casting call Saturday, asking for “multiracial women only” to attend.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) September 3, 2016
What seems like an effort to diversify models at first sight, has caused quite a stir on Twitter, with many criticizing the move.
Hmm @ multiracial women only.
Does that include the dark skinned multiracial women or just the light skinned ones? https://t.co/wtExXS0DvO
— Chihiro Ogino (@WickedBeaute) September 3, 2016
— Bri Malandro (@BriMalandro) September 3, 2016
— Afua Hirsch (@afuahirsch) September 3, 2016
In a Kanye West world there is no place for black women…that's been quite obvious for some time.
— #CreativeSmartGirl (@CreativeSmartCo) September 3, 2016
@kanyewest This is a major issue. In an industry that consistently cuts Black models out, you do this?! You are the absolute worst. Truly.
— k. (@KatchKenda) September 3, 2016
One the one hand, West’s call for multiracial models can be interpreted as an attempt to be more inclusive. But on the other hand, it effectively excludes the African-American women of darker complexion who are already underrepresented in the industry.
Of course, Kanye West is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the famous musician and pop culture icon seems to thrive on PR crises, leveraging the often negative buzz to propel his marketing machine forward.
However, what’s good for Kanye West would actually be very bad for most other brands and public figures. And this brings us to a very important point. As the public debate around gender, cultural and ethnic diversity issues continues, it is very important for modern communicators to understand all the implications and interpretations that come with these terms.
Be it a job opening, a new HR policy, or any other public statement, today’s communications practitioners need to be highly aware of these issues and triple-check all of their statements for potentially controversial content, or one that can be misinterpreted by different groups.
As crisis PR experts like to say, “an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.”