Several prominent staff members had spoken out about the photograph and the company’s internal culture
Adam Rapoport, the editor in chief of a popular US food magazine, Bon Appétit, has announced his resignation after a 2003 photograph of him dressed in “brown face” surfaced on social media.
In a statement posted on Instagram, Rapoport said he was stepping down “to reflect on the work that I need to do as a human being and to allow Bon Appétit to get to a better place”.
He went on: “From an extremely ill-conceived Halloween costume 16 years ago to my blind spots as an editor I’ve not championed an inclusive vision. And ultimately it’s been at the expense of Bon Appétit and its staff as well as our readers. They all deserve better.”
Bon Appétit is widely considered a standout success in legacy publishing house Conde Nast’s attempt to transform into a digital-first company, thanks to its popular YouTube channel and licensing deals.
Prior to Rapoport’s resignation several prominent staff members spoke out against the photograph and Bon Appétit’s internal culture. Sohla El-Waylly, a chef and assistant editor, stated “this is just a symptom of the systematic racism that runs rampant within Conde Nast as a whole” in a series of Instagram stories.
She also alleged pay disparities between Bon Appétit’s white and non-white staff, stating: “I am 35 years old and have over 15 years’ professional experience. I was hired as an assistant editor at $50k to assist mostly white editors with significantly less experience than me. I’ve been pushed in front of video as a display of diversity. In reality currently only white editors are paid for their video appearances. None of the people of colour have been compensated.”
A Conde Nast representative denied El-Waylly’s assertion about pay disparities for video appearances, in a statement to Variety.
Prior to his resignation, several other prominent Bon Appétite staff members, including Christina Chaey, Priya Krishna, Sarah Jampel and Molly Baz also explicitly condemned Rapoport’s actions.
Alex Lau, a former staff photographer for the title, also tweeted: “Yes, I left BA for multiple reasons, but one of the main reasons was that white leadership refused to make changes that my BIPOC coworkers and I constantly pushed for.”
Other staff, including Brad Leone, host of the magazine’s most popular YouTube show It’s Alive, issued a more general statement of support for the title’s BIPOC employees.
Rapoport’s resignation came a few days after James Bennet, editorial page director of the New York Times, resigned following backlash over the publishing of an opinion piece by Tom Cotton, a junior senator, calling for the use of military force against civilian protesters.
The US has been rocked by three weeks of protests over the death in custody of George Floyd, a black man who died when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.