We write this letter to you as two queers of color in Portland, Oregon who at one point supported you. Over the course of your life, we have each felt increasingly marginalized by and distanced from your brand. We have on occasion reached out to you with our concerns through social media, received little to no response and moved on. We have discussed these issues with our peers in the queer community and communities of color and distanced ourselves from your brand by no longer supporting you through purchasing your products, following you on social media, and receiving your e-mail newsletters. We’ve gone about our lives pretty unconcerned with your existence, only occasionally groaning at some problematic posts, inaccessible prices, and token people of color sprinkled through your promotional material.
This time, however, we feel we can’t be silent. Your recent campaign headlined “WE ARE ALL…” has strayed too far from problematic posts and into literal silencing and erasure of the communities we belong to and care so deeply about. Your campaign asserts, “We are all immigrants. We are all women. We are all gay. We are all polar bears.” But we are not all of those things; there is a difference between saying something and meaning it.
We understand your intention with this campaign, which essentially rests on good/bad comparisons between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, is to encourage your consumers to vote for Clinton and against Trump, who we agree is a vile, racist, sexist human. But we aren’t interested in discussing our or your votes here. We argue that by simplifying these issues and ignoring the real opinions and experiences of marginalized communities you further perpetuate our and their oppression, rather than challenging the white supremacy, heteronormativity, and misogyny that you argue only Donald Trump embodies.
Because the reality is, we are not all all of these things. If you are not an immigrant, you do not know what it is truly like to be an immigrant, and suggesting that you do dismisses the real, unique, and marginalizing aspects of immigrant experiences.
Creating a campaign around “oneness” erases the discrimination that marginalized communities face; it suggests that oppression can be remedied by pretending we are all the same and we are all treated the same, rather than acknowledging the oppressors’ responsibility to reform their own systems and cultures, those responsible for oppression. If you want to challenge the way that immigrants are treated in the United States, address the specific actions, rhetoric, racist beliefs, and policies that enforce and encourage that abhorrent treatment and what non-immigrants can do to change them.
While we understand that your campaign’s “We are all…” slogan attempts to bring people together, the ads actually bury our communities’ varied identities and oppressors’ responsibility to effect change, by insisting that we are the same.
In an effort to mirror the organization of your original post and clearly explain its problematic aspects, we have separated the remainder of our response below into the sections you highlighted as the original “key issues” in the upcoming presidential campaign: Immigration, Women’s Rights, LGBTQ Rights, and the Environment. Before delving into each of these, we must acknowledge the gaping silence when it comes to the “issue” that is one of THE most important for us and for so many Americans: Race.
The fact that race is not highlighted as one of the issues that should determine votes in the upcoming presidential election exemplifies white silence on this issue and the white-washing of this ad campaign and your brand. As Desmond Tutu said and as so many people of color and white allies have explained over and over again to our white peers, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
And perhaps you were willing to do just that in this campaign because it was obvious to you that statements such as “We are all Black” and “We are all Brown” are deeply problematic and downright false. Another issue that you fail to highlight is ableism. Is it possibly because the statement “We are all Disabled” feels more problematic and less sexy than the statements you chose?
We write this letter to you, Wildfang, not to attack, call out, or vilify, but rather to urge you to examine the ways in which this campaign fails to combat the widespread oppression it claims to challenge, and instead perpetuates our communities’ marginalization. We ask you to remove this post from your website immediately, apologize to the communities you have erased and silenced. We finally ask you to commit to abstaining from white-washed political activism and, if you are committed to using your brand for real political organizing, work with our communities to devise campaigns that center us and our needs.
***The images below are reproduced from Wildfang’s campaign and our responses are following***
Again, we write this letter to you, Wildfang, not to attack, call out, or vilify, but rather to urge you to examine the ways in which this campaign fails to combat the widespread oppression it claims to challenge, and instead perpetuates our communities’ marginalization.
We ask you to remove this post from your website immediately, apologize to the communities you have erased and silenced.
We finally ask you to commit to abstaining from white-washed political activism and, if you are committed to using your brand for real political organizing, work with our communities to devise campaigns that center us and our needs.
--Concerned queers of color