New Netflix doc chronicles Abercrombie & Fitch’s ‘all-American’ racist culture

A new documentary from Netflix, “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch”, chronicles the toxic and racist culture of the American clothing company during the 2000s.

In the documentary, which aired on Netflix on Tuesday, former Abercrombie employees alleged they had been kicked out or retained at the company because of their ethnicity.

A lawsuit filed against Abercrombie in 2004 accused the American chain of flattering white customers by giving sales and management positions to white employees, while black, Latino, Asian American and female employees worked in the back of the store. .

A former employee, Dr. Anthony Ocampo, claimed that the company would not rehire him because there was already another Filipino working in the store.

“At no point did I say I was Filipino, so that was a guess by whoever was working there,” he said in the documentary. “I remember I told my parents, and I told close friends, and they totally agreed with me that it was screwed.”

“I have never seen such explicit racism,” Ocampo added. “I was really pissed off. I was in a rage that never went away.

“When I was asked to be part of the lawsuit, I thought it was an opportunity to call out Abercrombie for their bullshit trying to say they’re an all-American brand, and yet the way of which they maintain that The image of the all-American is to hire a bunch of white people and fire a bunch of colored people.

Another employee, Jennifer Sheahan, claimed she was fired from an Abercrombie branch in Costa Mesa, Calif., because she was Asian.

“The real reason was that after the corporate blitz, one of the people from the company went and noticed a group of Asians in the store,” she said in the documentary.

“They said, ‘Well, you need more staff that looks like this,’ and they pointed to an Abercrombie poster, and it was a Caucasian model,” Sheahan continued.

A black employee, Carla Barrientos, said her schedule had more night shifts than day shifts. When she asked to work more hours during the day, she was told that she could only work at night. Barrientos tried to switch shifts with a colleague, but was refused. Abercrombie finally let her go completely.

After paying $50 million to settle the trial in 2005, Abercrombie has changed its recruiting, hiring and marketing policies. The company also hired a diversity director, Todd Corley, in 2004.

Abercrombie came under fire again after allegedly refusing to hire Samantha Elauf because she wore a hijab during her 2008 interview. A jury awarded her $20,000 in compensatory damages in July 2011, but Abercrombie appealed to the district court American from Tulsa the same month. A federal appeals court dismissed the lawsuit filed on Elauf’s behalf in October 2013. A year later, the Supreme Court revealed it would hear the former Abercrombie employee’s discrimination case against the business. The court ruled in favor of Elauf on June 1, 2015.

Phil Yu, founder of the Angry Asian Man blog, also appears in the documentary to talk about the racist graphic T-shirts the company sold. One of the shirts bore the words “Wong Brothers Laundry Service” and “two wongs can make it white”. Cartoons of Asian men with slant eyes and Cantonese hats were also depicted on the shirt.

Sadas Abadsidis, former editor of quarterly A&F magazine, claimed in the documentary that the shirts were endorsed by two senior members of the Asian team.

“There was an Asian designer in there?” Yu asked in disbelief. “Maybe there was someone. You know, your cover is the only Asian in the room.

However, the blogger doubted an Asian employee would say out loud, “This is very offensive to my identity.”

“In this stuffy corporate environment where everyone around you is white, I don’t know if this is a safe place to do this,” Yu said.

In a statement to NextShark, current Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Fran Horowitz acknowledged there were “exclusionary and inappropriate actions” when Mike Jeffries was CEO from 1992 to 2014.

At Abercrombie & Fitch Co., we live our purpose and showcase our customers, associates and partners on their journey to be and become exactly who they are.

Our continued evolution has been so rewarding, and we want to be clear that the newly released documentary does not reflect who we are now. We acknowledge and validate that there were exclusionary and inappropriate actions under the former leadership. Since I became CEO in 2017, we’ve revamped Abercrombie and intentionally transformed it into a place to belong. We’ve evolved the organization, including making changes to leadership, prioritizing representation, implementing new policies, redesigning our in-store experiences, and updating fit, assortment of sizes and style of our products.

We are focused on inclusivity and continuing this transformation is our enduring promise to you, our community. Because without you, we wouldn’t be who we are today. Thank you for taking this journey with us.

Image selected via netflix

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