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Anthropologie Responds to Accusations of Racial Profiling

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  • After Anthropologie posted a Maya Angelou quote on Instagram, numerous people claiming to be current or former employees accused the brand of racial profiling customers and using the codename “Nick” to refer to Black people who go into their stores.
  • A few days later, Anthropologie said it was supporting the Black community through measures like diversifying its workforce and donating $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund. 
  • That post also received backlash from users who called on the store to address the accusations levied against it.
  • On Thursday, Anthropologie posted another statement, denying that it used a codeword and saying the company has a “zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination or racial profiling.”

Accusations Against Anthropologie 

Anthropologie, the upscale clothing retailer owned by Urban Outfitters, is being accused of racially profiling customers after promoting inclusivity on social media.

The allegations first surfaced on June 1 when the brand posted a quote from Maya Angelou about diversity. 

Numerous people who said they were either current or former employees at Anthropologie stores in multiple U.S. cities and Canada responded to the post, accusing the company of racial profiling and using the codename “Nick” to refer to Black customers.

Many of the responses were screenshotted and uploaded in a post by the fashion watchdog Diet Prada.

“How are you going to stop racially profiling your [Nicks]?” one user wrote. “I worked at Anthropologie and the racial profiling was sickening. So many times the management told us to watch people of color over the headsets.” 

“I thought Chicago was the only ones who used ‘Nick” as a form of saying ‘watch that black woman who just walked in,’” another responded.

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Another day, another boho Karen retailer showing their true shades of beige. Last week, @anthropologie posted a Maya Angelou quote in splashy colors as a “call for equality”. With any mention of the #BlackLivesMatter movement absent, Angelou’s words could be interpreted more along the lines of “All lives matter”, lest Anthro offend their primary target audience. In the comment section, oblivious fans clamored for it to be released as a t-shirt or a poster. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Also in the comment section— claims of deep discriminatory practices. The code names different retailers have used to profile POC shoppers have come to light in lawsuits over the years—Moschino’s “Serena”, Zara’s “special order”, or Versace’s “D410” (the merchandise color code they use for black shirts)—but Anthropologie’s is maybe the most insidious yet. Comments from multiple employees confirm that stores in California, Chicago, Seattle, NYC and Canada use the code name “Nick” to refer to Black shoppers. Associates report being told to watch Black shoppers, and Black shoppers also commented confirming having been followed while shopping in their stores. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Anthropologie followed up with a post of a black square and then some promises of action they’ll take. At the same time, more hypocrisy was taking place at the corporate level. While the retailer was posting about committing to diversifying their workforce, they were at the same time asking POC for free labor. On May 26th, Queer Black creator Lydia Okello ( @styleisstyle ) was approached by a producer to potentially partake in Anthro’s #sliceofhappy Pride month campaign in exchange for a free outfit. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Okello replied with their typical rates and ended up getting trapped in a back and forth volley with no resolution after being told there was no budget for an influencer of their level (22.8k followers). For a campaign aimed to express what happiness means, surely they could’ve anticipated that no one, especially in a month meant to celebrate them, is happy to work for free. • #blacklivesmatter #blm #anthropologie #anthropologiehome #anthro #retail #codename #work #free #influencer #microinfluencer #labor #dietprada

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on Jun 10, 2020 at 12:58pm PDT

Other users also criticized the post as vague, empty, and failing to actually address the Black Lives Matter movement. Those remarks, along with calls for the affluent company to donate money, were also echoed in comments on a post made by the store the next day for “Blackout Tuesday.”

Several days later, Anthropologie responded with an Instagram post where it promised to stand with and support the Black community by diversifying its workforce, expanding its diversity and anti-discriminating training, and donating $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund. 

The post did not mention the allegations of racial discrimination, which prompted more backlash and calls for the retailer to address the accusations.

Anthropologie’s Official Response 

Anthropologie finally responded to the allegations on Thursday in another Instagram post.

“You may have seen that we have been challenged to be more transparent, unbiased, and fair in our stores and with our business practices,” the statement begins. 

Regarding allegations of racial profiling, we have never and will never have a code word based on a customer’s race or ethnicity,” it continued. “Our company has a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination or racial profiling in any form. Employees who do not adhere to this policy are subject to disciplinary action which may include termination.”

The statement also addressed accusations brought by a Black model and content creator named Lydia Okello, who posted screenshots of a conversation they had with an Anthropologie producer who had recruited them for a campaign celebrating Pride Month.

Okello said that when they provided their freelance rates, the producer said there was “no budget,” and that instead they would be given “one gifted look.” 

“‘No Budget’ means that I was approached with no intent to ever be paid for my time and labour, let alone my experiences as a Black queer person,” Okello wrote. 

“This happens to Black creatives constantly. Especially in the fashion industry,” they continued. “We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labour. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?”⠀

“But, in this case, it is quite confounding that a multimillion dollar company would reach out to someone with ‘no budget’. Especially when it involves the Queer Black Voices™️ it would like to align itself with, and use in advertisements.”

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On May 26th, I was contacted by a producer at @anthropologie to take part in a Pride campaign. I responded with my rates for the campaign requirements. The response was that there was no budget, but that the producer would be happy to email to discuss rates.⠀ ⠀ The email was a longer pitch, including a request for an advertisement on my Instagram page and 3-5 images for them to use wherever they would like. With no budget. ⠀ ⠀ The above are screenshots from our conversation, including a “nudge” in my DMs this week to respond to the email requests for free labour.⠀ ⠀ Throughout the interaction, I stated my price and was met with no compensation. “No Budget” means that I was approached with no intent to ever be paid for my time and labour, let alone my experiences as a Black queer person. Only after many messages/emails was there acknowledgement that I should be compensated. Even in that response, there was gaslighting. I stated my fees from the very first message.⠀ ⠀ This happens to Black creatives constantly. Especially in the fashion industry. We are made to feel that we ask for too much when we bring up fair compensation for labour. It is implied that we should be happy with what we get. Shouldn’t we just be happy that a big brand wants to work with someone like us?⠀ ⠀ I’ve been “paid” in exposure numerous times in the last 12 years as a style blogger. Which I now refuse to do. But, in this case, it is quite confounding that a multimillion dollar company would reach out to someone with “no budget”. Especially when it involves the Queer Black Voices™️ it would like to align itself with, and use in advertisements. Seems timely, no?⠀ ⠀ We need to hold brands accountable to their lip service. In fact, with BLM being a “hot topic” to a lot of corporations, this is going to happen FREQUENTLY. Folks will want to capitalize on Black bodies & Black labour for the lowest price possible, as they have for several hundred years. ⠀ ⠀ The final slide is a post from June 5 on the brand page. When Anthropologie says “black lives do matter” what does that mean? When they plan to diversify their workforce, is it this free Black labour?⠀ ⠀ #payblackcreatives #MyAnthropologie

A post shared by LYDIA OKELLO | they/them (@styleisstyle) on Jun 7, 2020 at 8:20am PDT

Interestingly, Anthropologie appeared to validate Okello’s claim that they were told they would only be compensated in product, though it did not refer to them by name.

“In the case of influencers, our methods of compensation include product, financial payment, or a combination of both,” the company wrote.

Many users responded by condemning the post as defensive and generic, and some accused the retailer of lying.

“This is some straight BS, SAVE IT,” one user wrote. “You’re only posting this to save your company after people finally spoke out. I’m so over companies trying to make up for their LONG history of racial bias. You support and stand with things when it’s convenient for you!”

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Daily Beast) (USA Today)

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Tesla Suspends Bitcoin Purchases Over Environmental Impact, Causing Coin’s Value To Crash 20%

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  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that his electric vehicle company would be ceasing all Bitcoin sales effective immediately, even though it just started using the cryptocurrency in March.
  • The announcement prompted a massive sell-off of Bitcoin, which plunged almost 20% on Wednesday.
  • In his statement, Musk said, “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.”
  • Many have since accused Musk of manipulating the crypto market since Bitcoin’s environmental impact has long been one of its most controversial facets. 

Tesla Suspends Bitcoin Purchases

Volatility is essentially a prerequisite for Bitcoin, but Wednesday proved to be an especially bad day for the cryptocurrency after Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the electric vehicle company would no longer be accepting the coin as a form of payment.

At the beginning of the day, Bitcoin was trading for around $57,000. Following Musk’s announcement, it had fallen to a 24-hour low of just over $46,000 — amounting to a nearly 20% drop in value. 

“We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk said via Twitter. “Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment.”

This policy update comes after only months after Tesla disclosed in February that it had bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin. It also comes after the company began accepting Bitcoin as payment for vehicles in March. 

Still, with this sudden about-face, Musk said, “Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy. We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy/transaction.”

Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact

Musk tweeted a graph Thursday morning from Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance that shows Bitcoin’s increasing energy use since 2016.

In March, researchers with the Centre reported that Bitcoin’s energy consumption has jumped 80% since the beginning of 2020. 

Bitcoin’s impact on the environment has long been a subject of debate since mining it takes excessive amounts of electrical energy, but that problem has only gotten worse with the coin’s continued growth. 

On Monday, Ars Technica reported that a defunct coal power plant in upstate New York has been restarted to mine Bitcoin. In January, Iranian officials partly blamed Bitcoin for mass blackouts in the country. Researchers have even found that Bitcoin mining uses more energy than places like Argentina, a country with 45 million people.

Is Musk Manipulating the Market?

The overall reaction to Musk’s announcement was less than favorable, with many accusing the billionaire of manipulating the crypto market. 

“[This is] the same guy who’s been pulling the levers on crypto and has everyone following his every move,” Dave Portnoy, the controversial owner of Barstool Sports, said. “He’s sending Dogecoin up. He’s sending Bitcoin down. This is bullshit.

“Elon, you have responsibility when one second you say to buy something and the next second you don’t,” Portnoy added. “That’s playing with people’s futures, their fortunes.” 

Others made similar statements accusing Musk of essentially controlling Bitcoin prices, with MMA fighter Keith Berry saying, “Elon is a smart cookie, do you really think he didn’t know about energy usages on #Bitcoin after he bought 1.5B in BTC in December 2020” 

Still, some argued that recent disappointment in Musk is good for Bitcoin in the long term.

“This is great for #Bitcoin,” one person tweeted. “It should never depend on the thoughts and opinions of a single entity. The Elon Musk effect is being priced out and that’s positive for the cryptocurrency industry in the long run.” 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (CNBC) (The New York Times)

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U.S. Gas Prices Hit $3 Per Gallon, a 7-year High, as Buyers Panicked During the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

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  • The national average gas price has climbed above $3 for the first time in seven years.
  • The increase comes as the country’s largest fuel pipeline remains largely shuttered for the sixth day in a row following a ransomware attack, leading to panic buying and massive gas shortages in some cities. 
  • Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the company behind the pipeline should be able to make a decision on a full restart of the system by the end of Wednesday.
  • Still, she cautioned that it will take several days for fuel supplies to go back to normal. 

Update: Colonial Pipeline restarted operations at 5 p.m. EST Wednesday. “Following this restart it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” Colonial said in a statement. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period.”

Panic Buying Drives Fuel Shortages

The national average gas price reached $3.008 Wednesday, its highest value in seven years. 

The jump is largely being driven by two factors. The first is that the country’s largest fuel pipeline was forced to shut down last Friday following a ransomware attack by the criminal gang Darkside. That pipeline, owned by the Colonial Pipeline Company, stretches from Texas to New York and supplies 45% of the East Coast’s fuel.

The second is that panic buying related to the shutdown and fears of fuel scarcity have exacerbated the problem. In fact, Tuesday evening, over 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast ran dry. 

By Wednesday, the situation was even worse. Nearly a quarter of all stations in North Carolina were out of gas, and in urban areas like Charlotte, 71% of stations were empty.  Meanwhile, around 15% percent of stations in both Georgia and Virginia were out of gas, and in the Atlanta metro area, 60% of stations had been depleted. 

Photos and video from affected states show hours-long lines. Some people have reported waiting more than five hours to get to the pump. Others have shared images of “out of fuel” signs. Stretching pumps even thinner are reports that many drivers are simply trying to top off mostly-full tanks or gas cans. 

In one tense situation captured at a gas station near Raleigh, North Carolina, a woman can be seen spitting on a man and hitting a car after she reportedly tried to cut the line. The man fires back a spit of his own, leading to a fight between the two.

When Will the Pipeline Be Back?

On Monday, some (but not most) of the pipeline was brought back manually. Colonial Pipeline officials have also said they hope to restart most operations by the end of the week.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also told reporters Tuesday that Colonial should be in a position to make a decision on a full restart by the end of Wednesday; however, it’s likely going to take several days for fuel supplies to return to normal even after operations recover.

“Much as there was no cause for, say, hoarding toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, there should be no cause for hoarding gasoline,” Granholm said. 

Many analysts have echoed that warning, telling people to fuel up only if they need to and asking them to try to conserve as much gas as possible until the pipeline becomes largely operational again. 

The governors of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia have all declared states of emergency to try to stave off shortages and keep gas prices down. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (USA Today) (MarketWatch)

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GLAAD Report Finds All Top Social Media Platforms “Effectively Unsafe” for LGBTQ+ Users

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  • The LGBTQ+ media monitoring organization GLAAD said in a Sunday report that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are all “effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.” 
  • Of the 64% of respondents who told GLAAD they’ve faced anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech or harassment online, 75% said at least some came from Facebook, which performed the most poorly of all five platforms.
  • The report highlights more than just hate speech, as GLAAD notes that “inadequate content moderation, polarizing algorithms, and discriminatory AI” also negatively affect LGBTQ+ users.
  • “This is about less watchdogging, more partnering with these platforms to get it right,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said while calling the report a starting point for how platforms can change.

Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Speech Rampant on Social Media Sites

The LGBTQ+ media monitoring organization GLAAD has published a report that classifies every top social media platform as “effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.” 

That includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

“Of special concern, the prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment stands out as the most significant problem in urgent need of improvement,” GLAAD said in the report released Sunday.

The organization noted 64% of LGBTQ+ social media users have experienced harassment and hate speech online, which it said is higher than all other identity groups. 

Of the five platforms, Facebook was far and above the worst offender. In fact, GLAAD reported that 75% of the LGBTQ+ respondents who’ve experienced online harassment said at least some of that harassment happened on Facebook.

Meanwhile, 24% percent of respondents said they have faced similar harassment on Twitter and Instagram each. YouTube came in just below those figures at 21%, and TikTok saw the lowest harassment level of the five at 9%.

GLAAD’s president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis said that while the organization was originally going to give each platform a grade, “What we ended up realizing is that if we started grading, they’d all fail, quite frankly.” 

Content Moderation and AI

It’s not just hate speech. “Inadequate content moderation, polarizing algorithms, and discriminatory AI” were also listed among the specific problems that GLAAD hopes these social media platforms will address. 

The organization even listed several “urgent recommendations,” which read:

  • “Stop allowing algorithms to fuel extremism and hate. Similarly, confront the problem of bias in AI.”
  • “Make it easier for users to report problematic content, be transparent in content moderation, and use more human moderators.”
  • “Employ a dedicated LGBTQ policy lead.”
  • “Respect data privacy, especially where LGBTQ people are vulnerable to serious harms and violence.”

It also called for platforms to more strongly enforce misinformation labels and restrict hashtags/shares of anti-LGBTQ content.

“This is about less watchdogging, more partnering with these platforms to get it right,” Ellis said, summing up the purpose of the report as a “roadmap” for platforms to begin implementing change.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (NPR) (The Hill)

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