L’Oreal’s In-visible Racism

Its time L’Oreal responded to the questions of blatant racism practiced by the corporate house.

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L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics firm, says its business is a “celebration of diversity” and its famous slogan is “Because you’re worth it.” But is the company referring to White women only?

A French civil appeals court apparently saw it that way and found the cosmetic giant guilty of racial discrimination because it ruled out all but White women to promote its shampoo.

In the far-reaching case, the Garnier division of the huge beauty empire, along with a recruitment agency it employed, was fined more than $40,000 each after they recruited women on the basis of race.

In addition, a senior figure at the agency was given a three-month suspended prison sentence. The ruling marks the first time a major company has been found guilty of systematic race discrimination in France.

The French campaign group SOS Racisme brought the case against L’Oreal, over its 2000 campaign.

Garnier France sought saleswomen to demonstrate its Fructis Style shampoo, hand out samples and discuss hairstyling with shoppers in supermarkets near Paris. In July 2000, a fax detailing the profile of hostesses sought by L’Oreal stipulated women should be “BBR,” the initials for bleu, blanc, rouge, the colors of the French flag. Prosecutors argued that BBR, shorthand used by the far right, was also a well-known code among employers to mean “White” French people and not those of north African, African and Asian backgrounds. But L’Oreal’s Web site says it prides itself with diversity. “The appearance and physical features of each person are unique, with differences that include age, skin and hair type,” it says. “It is founded on respect for those differences and the capacity to match personal diversity with the diversity of our products and brands.” In 2006, Kerry Washington took on her biggest role to date — as the newest face of L’Oreal Paris. Beyoncé Knowles signed a $4.7 million, five-year endorsement deal in 2001 with the cosmetic giant that has previously signed other minority music artists/models, including Vanessa Williams from 1997-2001 and Jennifer Lopez in 1999 for its Feria Color line.