"Our mastheads have been far too white for far too long," the food magazine said in a statement

By Gabrielle Chung
June 10, 2020 11:36 PM
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Bon Appétit
Bon Appetit

Bon Appétit magazine is speaking out about the accusations of racial discrimination and unfair treatment towards people of color, admitting on Wednesday that the publication has been "complicit" in focusing on a "white-centric viewpoint" within its brand.

The statement comes days after its editor in chief Adam Rapoport resigned from his post amid outrage over a resurfaced racially insensitive photograph, which depicted him wearing a Halloween costume that perpetuated harmful stereotypes of Puerto Rican people.

Addressing Rapoport's exit, Bon Appétit and its sister publication Epicurious said in a joint post titled "A Long-Overdue Apology, and Where We Go From Here" that the picture was "horrific on its own, but speaks to much broader and longstanding impact of racism at these brands."

"We have been complicit with a culture we don’t agree with and are committed to change. Our mastheads have been far too white for far too long. As a result, the recipes, stories, and people we’ve highlighted have too often come from a white-centric viewpoint," the brand said. "At times we have treated non-white stories as 'not newsworthy' or 'trendy.' Other times we have appropriated, co-opted, and Columbused them."

"While we’ve hired more people of color, we have continued to tokenize many BIPOC staffers and contributors in our videos and on our pages," the post continued.

In the statement, Bon Appétit admitted that many staffers who are black, indigenous or people of color "have been in entry-level positions with little power" and vowed "to accelerate their career advancement and pay."

"Black staffers have been saddled with contributing racial education to our staffs and appearing in editorial and promotional photo shoots to make our brands seem more diverse. We haven’t properly learned from or taken ownership of our mistakes. But things are going to change," the statement read. "We have been seriously discussing what change can look like at BA and Epi and what we need to do to make it an inclusive, just, and equitable place."

Steps the food magazine aims to take include "prioritizing people of color for the editor in chief candidate pool," "implementing anti-racism training" and "resolving any pay inequities that are found across all departments," according to Bon Appétit, which is owned by media giant Condé Nast.

"It means dismantling the toxic, top-down culture that has hurt many members of our staff both past and present and supporting Condé Nast’s internal investigation to hold individual offenders accountable," the statement read, adding that it aims to "better acknowledge, honor, and amplify BIPOC voices" and "hire more freelancers of color."

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"We will do the work of building trust with our BIPOC contributors and launch multiple columns written by BIPOC on print and digital platforms. We will overhaul our recipe development process to address issues of ownership and appropriation," the publication said. "We will audit previously published articles and recipes to ensure proper crediting and contextualization. We will also create research protocols to vet the subjects of our coverage; there will be zero tolerance for racism, sexism, homophobia, or harassment in any form."

"This is just the start. We want to be transparent, accountable, and active as we begin to dismantle racism at our brands."

Prior to Rapoport's departure, several Bon Appétit staff members spoke out about the controversy, noting that the problem is bigger than the resurfaced photo.

Assistant editor Sohla El-Waylly wrote on her Instagram Story on Monday that she is "angry and disgusted" by the picture, but that it's "just a symptom of the systematic racism that runs rampant" within the media company, calling out the alleged pay discrepancies between white and non-white employees.

Adam Rapoport
Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan/Getty

El-Waylly, 35, said that she is paid less than white coworkers with "significantly less" experience and that she is "pushed in front of video as a display of diversity." She also claimed that white editors are paid for on-camera appearances but people of color are not.

Supporting her co-worker, Molly Baz, a senior food editor at Bon Appétit, shared on her Instagram Story that she will not appear in any videos for the magazine "until my BIPOC colleagues receive equal pay and are fairly compensated for their appearances."

On Monday, Rapoport said that he was "deeply sorry" for the racially insensitive photo in his resignation announcement.

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"I am stepping down as editor in chief of Bon Appétit to reflect on the work that I need to do as a human being and to allow Bon Appétit to get to a better place," wrote Rapoport on his Instagram. "From an extremely ill-conceived Halloween costume 16 years ago to my blind spots as an editor, I've not championed an inclusive vision."

"And ultimately, it's been at the expense of Bon Appétit and its staff, as well as our readers," he continued. "They all deserve better. The staff has been working hard to evolve the brand in a positive, more diverse direction. I will do all I can to support that work, but I am not the one to lead that work."

Rapoport concluded, "I am deeply sorry for my failings and to the position in which I put the editors of BA. Thank you."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.