The editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit magazine has stepped down after a photo of him wearing brownface resurfaced and several of the magazine’s few staffers of color publicly called on him to resign as a reckoning on diversity, inclusion and representation sweeps the media industry.
Adam Rapoport announced his exit Monday after freelance food journalist Tammie Teclemariam unearthed a 2013 Instagram photo of him wearing brownface for Halloween and perpetuating negative stereotypes about Latinx people.
In an Instagram post Monday night, Rapoport apologized for the “extremely ill-conceived” photo and for his “blind spots as an editor.”
“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 BA to get to a better place,” he said, adding that the publication’s staff and readers “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. I am deeply sorry for my failings and to the position in which I put the editors of BA.”
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The food and culinary publication has long faced controversies surrounding its cultural appropriation of food trends, portraying dishes and ingredients traditional to specific regions and cultures as novel and trendy. It also often enlists white chefs or food writers to write about them and present themselves as authorities on the food of other cultures.
And it has weathered criticism that most of its staff, particularly those featured in its popular YouTube shows, is glaringly white.
On Monday, almost none of the magazine’s staffers who initially spoke publicly against Rapoport or called for his ouster were white. Several staffers of color, including research director Joseph Hernandez, contributor Priya Krishna, and assistant editors Christina Chaey and Sohla El-Waylly, did — potentially risking career consequences.
On Instagram, El-Waylly claimed that only white editors at the magazine get compensated for their on-air appearances and said that she has regularly been “pushed in front of video as a display of diversity.”
On Twitter, the magazine’s former food director Carla Lalli Music, who is white, said she regretted not doing more to promote diversity at the publication and in its coverage, and said she was “grateful to those of my colleagues at Bon Appétit who have pushed these issues into the light — publicly, privately, and behind the scenes.”
After El-Waylly spoke out, senior food editor Molly Baz said on Instagram that she would not appear in any Bon Appétit videos in solidarity with her colleagues who are Black, indigenous and/or people of color until they are equally compensated, and urged other staff members to do the same.
The uproar at Bon Appétit is representative of racial inequities that exist across the food and culinary world, as well as in the media industry. In recent days, many newsrooms have started to face a wider reckoning, as numerous journalists of color on social media have been revealing instances of systemic racism and discrimination from editors and at publications where they’ve worked.
Several major media outlets have faced widespread condemnation for editorial decisions related to coverage of the protests surrounding the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, including The New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In calling out editors’ decision to run a column with the headline “Building Matters, Too” last week, journalists of color at the Inquirer staged a digital walkout. In their statement announcing their action, they noted that too often the work of making institutions more diverse falls on the shoulders of marginalized people at those institutions.
“We’re tired of shouldering the burden of dragging this 200-year-old institution kicking and screaming into a more equitable age,” their statement read. “We’re tired of being told of the progress the company has made and being served platitudes about ‘diversity and inclusion’ when we raise our concerns.”
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