Entertainment And News

Kamala Harris's 'Vogue' Cover Is The Epitome Of A Racial Microaggression

Photo: Tyler Mitchell / Vogue 
Kamala Harris

By now, I’m sure we’ve all seen the controversial Kamala Harris Vogue cover, both the digital and print. 

When I first saw the photo circulating on Twitter, I actually thought it was fake.

I thought that maybe someone had photoshopped it, and was spreading it around as a call for Vogue to put her on the cover.

Never had the thought crossed my mind that the photo I was seeing was actually Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s Vogue cover. 

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Shot by Tyler Mitchell, who in 2018 became the first Black photographer to shoot for Vogue after Beyoncé commissioned him to shoot her cover, I was surprised to see that the idea for Harris's shoot had come from him.

Everything about the photo was disappointing, but also, not surprising.

Vogue has a history of photographing not only Black women, but men as well, in very unflattering ways.

In July of 2020, Simone Biles was chosen to be the August cover for Vogue, and when her cover was shown, many people were angered and flat-out outraged.

It was an unflattering image, badly lit, and overall, it seemed as if Vogue didn’t even try — or care, for that matter.

The cover had been shot by Annie Leibovitz, a white woman, which angered people even more.

Vogue couldn’t even hire a Black photographer to shoot a Black woman.

Annie Leibovitz has actually shot many covers for the magazine, including the photo of Gisele Bündchen and LeBron James, which is a conversation in and of itself.

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The cover was slammed for being similar to a 1933 photo of King Kong, in which he scoops up a pretty white lady, and mounts the top of the Empire State Building. 

Vogue has a reputation of overlooking and undermining the Black people that they put on their covers.

But, even with all of the controversy in the past, many, including myself, didn’t think they’d do it again to our new Vice President — a VP who has made history as the first Black and South Asian woman in office. 

Anna Wintour has since commented on the cover, saying, “No formal agreement had been made about the cover choice,” and emphasized that “it was absolutely not our intention to in any way diminish the importance of the Vice President-elect’s incredible victory.”

According to Wintour and her team, they thought the cover, in all of it’s casualness, was a better choice for the current moment, making connections to the pandemic and the tumultuous state of America. 

And frankly, I have to disagree.

Because of the past four years that we’ve been living in, shooting Kamala Harris in a “casual light” makes absolutely no sense, and seems to be, yet another, racial microaggression taking place.

America doesn’t need to see their upcoming VP donning Chuck Taylors; America wants to know that Kamala will come into the White House and make sure we don’t have a repeat of the last administration.

But despite all of that, the Vogue cover is lazy, and very unlike the effort that is put in when a white woman graces the front page of the magazine. 

It’s synonymous with the way America views Black women in general.

Why do we have to be casual? Why can’t we be shot in a powerful way that makes a bold statement?

And it doesn’t even matter if that Black woman in question is the Vice President of this country, one of the highest positions in power.

Anna Wintour has a history of approving subpar covers for Black women. She has a record of hiring racist photographers

And she’s done it all again by reducing the Vice President-elect, and not giving her any control over her own image.

People on Twitter have been sharing their frustrations with the photo, one user writing: “Vogue all the beautiful covers you have done...why sneakers?”

It’s disappointing how the same rhetoric of Vogue featuring a poorly done cover of Black woman keeps happening.

Everyone from former Vogue employees, to famous photographers, editors, and activists, speak out about how Anna Wintour’s history of blatantly disrespecting Black women, and yet, nothing changes.

Enough is enough.

There needs to be real discussion about her culpability, and professional consequences to her constant microaggressions.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.