Katy Perry Shoes Pulled From Stores for Resembling Blackface

Playing Katy Perry Pulls Shoes Over Blackface Controversy

Katy Perry is "saddened" after shoes from her line were criticized for resembling blackface.

Perry’s namesake shoe collection has come under fire for two designs, the Rua and the Ora, which many are saying resemble blackface. The shoes feature a pair of red lips, nose and eyes, and were released last summer in nine colors, including black.

Perry and Global Brands Group released a statement about the shoes after the accusations, saying they were removing them from stores.

They were "envisioned as a nod to modern art and surrealism," the statement from Perry read. "I was saddened when it was brought to my attention that it was being compared to painful images reminiscent of blackface. Our intention was never to inflict any pain."

Some did defend the star's designs, however. 

The incident comes on the heels of another company, Gucci, being criticized for an $890 balaclava knit top that many said was reminiscent of blackface as well. The sweater can be pulled to cover the nose and has oversize lips with a cutout for the mouth.

The brand has since apologized and removed the sweater after the fierce backlash.

Blackface originated in the U.S. in the 1830s with minstrel shows in which white actors dressed as slaves, painted their faces black and acted out offensive racial stereotypes.

Daphne Brooks, a professor of African American Studies at Yale University, said the practice is founded in white supremacy.

“It’s really important to understand the extent to which blackface is a form inextricably tied to the systemic, socioeconomic exploitation of black people,” Brooks said. “The idea of being able to expropriate blackness as a material form that someone can slip into mirrors the way black peoples bodies were violently used for the power to do with what they will.”

Brooks said for instances of this form of racism to stop occurring, young people need to be educated on why it’s problematic.

“I think we can start with more effectively and rigorously disseminating the details of this history from the ground up in our education system,” Brooks said. “So we could get to a point that would start with young people thinking, ‘Well if I put on this costume, to what extent am I using these marginalized people’s bodies in a way that doesn’t do justice to their own history and complexities?'”

Chinwe Oriji, a predoctoral fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, said that in order for companies to avoid making offensive mistakes, it’s necessary to have people of color in leadership roles. 

“These designs are just a surface issue to a larger structural problem of white supremacy. Companies should use their platform to not only prevent racist designs but prevent racist policies within and outside of their company that harm the black community. We need companies that are invested in challenging racism in all its forms,” Oriji said.

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