Fashion

New York City's Commission on Human Rights Thinks It Can Tell Prada What To Sell. Prada Agrees.

The city's overzealous commission has ordered the company to stop selling dolls some said were racial caricatures.

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The New York City Commission on Human Rights, an oversight agency that monitors compliance with the city's incredibly broad anti-discrimination law, has ordered the fashion company Prada to stop selling certain toy dolls—described by many as racist caricatures akin to blackface—and send its employees to sensitivity training.

In doing so, the overzealous agency is claiming vast new powers to police a private entity's behavior. Unfortunately, Prada is meekly submitting to the commission's demands, and other companies—including Dior and Gucci—are facing similar inquisitions.

This is just the latest in a series of power grabs on the part of the commission, which has vastly exceeded its authority and now represents a serious threat to free expression in New York City.

In September, the commission announced that an employer or landlord's use of the term "illegal alien" could be considered a form of illegal discrimination, and result in a fine of up to $250,000. This sweeping declaration was made without any reference to oft-cited limitations: Hostile speech must generally be severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive to rise to the level of harassment, for example. This raises questions about whether the commission's guidance would survive a legal challenge on First Amendment grounds.

But even before this declaration, the commission had begun an investigation into Prada after receiving complaints that some of their merchandise was racially insensitive, according to The New York Times:

For the last year, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the law enforcement agency of the municipal government charged with overseeing the city's human rights laws as they apply to housing, retail establishments and other areas, has been investigating and in settlement talks with Prada, a process culminating in a deal signed on Feb. 4, just in time to set nerves on edge during fashion month.

The commission sent Prada a cease and desist letter—a warning to stop selling the dolls in question—in December 2018, after a member of the commission saw a New Yorker's angry social media posts about the dolls. This New Yorker, Chinyere Ezie, a civil rights attorney, filed a complaint with the commission last January.

Prada's signed agreement with the commission is incredible. The company will put all New York store employees—and company executives in Milan—through racial sensitivity training. Prada will also appoint a diversity and inclusion officer, subject to the commission's approval. This person will be tasked with "reviewing Prada's designs before they are sold, advertised or promoted in any way in the United States," according to the terms of the agreement. Even The Times' reporter found this to be a fairly absurd requirement—"Given the hundreds of products Prada creates every season, this is a pretty extraordinary task," the articles notes in an aside.

And that's not all:

A year after signing the agreement, Prada is required to tell the commission "the demographic make-up" of its staff at every level, and summarize "Prada's past and future activities aimed at increasing the number of people from protected classes under-represented in the fashion industry."

Many of the conditions within the Prada agreement mirror commitments Gucci has already announced, including the creation of scholarships and promises to diversify its design and executive team. In July, it hired Renée Tirado, its first global head of diversity and inclusion, who formerly held a similar role for Major League Baseball.

Gucci declined to comment on the status of its discussions with the commission, though it did not deny the conversations were taking place. Dior did not respond to requests for comment.

In short, government bureaucrats have decided that existing anti-discrimination law gives them the power to tell fashion companies what sort of merchandise they can sell. Explicitly, this is the power they have claimed for themselves. Deputy Commissioner Sapna Raj made this clear to the Times, saying, "I don't know that we realized previously so many major fashion houses had this ignorance of the history of racism in this country. We hope companies realize they need to be very careful about how they market and advertise—that they need to have a larger social and cultural consciousness."

She's not kidding: Companies that are ignorant will be forced to educate themselves. If they do not market their products in a manner the commission approves of, reflecting a "larger social and cultural consciousness," they will be compelled to change. This naked authoritarianism should be challenged in court; unfortunately, it will take a more courageous handbag maker than Prada to bring such a suit.

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  1. “Prada’s past and future activities aimed at increasing the number of people from protected classes under-represented in the fashion industry.”

    At long last, straight white men will get their chance!

    1. Probably not to many Salafist Imans in product development either. Look for an austere new line of $30k niqabs for 2022.

  2. We hope companies realize they need to be very careful about how they market and advertise—that they need to have a larger social and cultural consciousness.

    I can’t wait to get my tweed jacket with elbow patches from FUBU.

  3. Explicitly, this is the power they have claimed for themselves.

    If only there were some sort of document laying out the rights and limitations of government…

  4. Damn Nazis.

    1. It’s Prada, not Hugo Boss.

      Oh, you were referring to the city’s commission.

      1. That’s funny !

  5. Well, golly!-wog

  6. Obviously, “human rights” don’t include the right to sell dolls which people want to buy. Is there a doll of any kind, anywhere, which isn’t, in the end a “caricature?” God help the person who tries to sell a “Raggedy Ann.”

    1. Is there a doll of any kind, anywhere, which isn’t, in the end a “caricature?”

      Ironically, yes.

      1. LOL. I stand corrected. But I am sure that NYC would find SOMETHING wrong with them.

    2. Holy Crap! Since Reason was too cowardly to post pics of the dolls I had to go look for myself.

      It’s worse than caricatures. The complainant and the committee are projecting *hard*. It’s like saying the monkey sock puppets are racist.

  7. (NSFW)

  8. Um, it’s obviously a monkey. What are the critics trying to say?

    1. I’m a fleabit peanut monkey
      All my friends are junkies
      That’s not really true…

    2. The serving tray and the guy eating a watermelon ain’t no monkey.

      1. But they weren’t Prada either. The golliwog caricatures were an attempt by racists to make black people look like monkeys, but now in 2020 we have the woke police saying monkeys look like black people.

        1. The image in the tray is not a monkey.

          1. I think the tray and watermelon picture aren’t part of the Prada display, but were added by the complainant to show the monkey’s resemblance to black stereotypes.

  9. “Sensitivity training” = political indoctrination

    “Diversity and Inclusion Officer” = Political Officer

    The idea that the employees can be compelled at government order to report for sensitivity training really makes the skin crawl.

    “All ist klar, Herr Kommisar?”

    1. Damn…does this mean I have to remove my Jim Crow era “Colored Waiting Room” sign from my bathroom door?

  10. So fascism thru bureaucracy. and they were worried that Trump was the fascist.

    1. I think that’s the way fascism has always worked.

  11. Get woke, go broke. Prada it was great while it lasted.

    1. Ok I posted this before going to the link. Damn that is some real racist blackface shit they displayed. Are they that clueless?

      1. Let the market punish them.

        I for one will not be purchasing their products.

        Kind of like my boycott of Rolls Royces.

  12. Where is a picture of the dolls? How do you print a story without the evidence?

  13. How does a New York CITY Human Rights Commission get to dictate what a company based in Italy has to do?
    I can understand them making conditions for New York City businesses, even if I don’t agree. But how is it they get to rule the whole world?

  14. Huh. No more sexist shoes for Prada…

  15. Basically what they’re saying is that Black people DO look like comic caricatures of monkeys, and so portraying monkeys is an insult to Black people. Which is ironic, because it’s WHITE people who look like monkeys. Black people look more like apes.

    Very white monkey

    1. OMG, you caucasiophobe!

    2. Wait a minute…didn’t we establish some years ago that they looked like water buffalo?

      1. Only the women, and only from behind.

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  20. Holy moly! Prada has woke me at last. I was visiting Central Park Zoo where I witnessed snow monkeys … in cages! Even worse than these blackface dolls, because those monkeys were WHITE which must mean they are culturally appropriating.

  21. From wikipedia:

    “fascist goals”: the creation of a nationalist dictatorship to regulate economic structure and to transform social relations within a modern, self-determined culture

  22. Enough with vague terms. Who is on this “Commission”? What are their names?

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