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Op-Ed: What should happen with Teen Vogue’s new EIC, Alexi McCammond?

On March 5, American online publication Teen Vogue announced their new editor-in-chief, Alexi McCammond. McCammond, who is a former political reporter for Axios, was chosen for the position to showcase her “powerful curiosity and confidence that embodies the best or our next generation of leaders.” By the following Monday, anti-Asian and homophobic tweets from her youth had resurfaced, with many of the publication’s staff members raising their concern over her hiring.

In a tweet from 2011, McCammond, a teen student at the time, wrote: “Now googling how to not wake up with swollen, Asian eyes.” In another, she wrote: “Outdone by Asian.”

A group of 20 Teen Vogue staff members sent a letter to management on March 9 concerning McCammond’s hiring. Although the letter’s exact contents haven’t been made public, Teen Vogue Senior Politics Editor Allegra Kirkland posted an official statement from the magazine’s staff on March 8.

“As more than 20 members of the staff of Teen Vogue, we’ve built our outlet’s reputation as a voice for justice and change — we take immense pride in our work and in creating an inclusive environment. That’s why we have written a letter to management at Condé Nast about the recent hire of Alexi McCammond as our new editor-in-chief in light of her past racist and homophobic tweets,” the statement reads. “We’ve heard the concerns of our readers, and we stand with you. In a moment of historically high anti-Asian violence and amid the on-going struggles of the LGBTQ community, we, as the staff of Teen Vogue fully reject those sentiments. We are hopeful that an internal conversation will prove fruitful in maintaining the integrity granted to us by our audience.”

What’s happening to McCammond isn’t anything new, especially at large publishing companies. Conde Nast, the parent company that owns Teen Vogue, has been in hot water since last summer. Months of internal chaos, shake-ups, and social reckoning over racism and pay inequality at Bon Appétit began after photos of former Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport resurfaced online that featured him in Brownface. This led the whole internet to discover that the ‘perfect’ Test Kitchen community that we had grown to love was riddled with a litany of internal issues.

I want to start by saying I don’t condone the actions that McCammond made in her past. Her racist and homophobic tweets were wrong, and she should have known better by the age of 17. And for that, she should be held accountable. There is no denying that what McCammond did was wrong.

Over the past decade, McCammond has spent time bettering herself. She’s grown from her past transgressions and has also addressed her racist and homophobic behavior in November, 2019 through a public apology. Although she did apologize, her initial apology failed to acknowledge her past actions as racist, and instead were called ‘insensitive’. McCammond should have addressed her previous comments for what they were (which is racist) in order to truly show that she understood the gravity of her previous statements and what they stood for.

When the tweets resurfaced again, she stepped forward and took full responsibility and called herself out for action and began to take and make the proper steps to right her previous wrong doings. In an email that was shared with Teen Vogue staff, she wrote that she’s “committed to sharing myself with all of you and to having difficult conversations so that I am always bettering myself…. now as a newsroom leader.”

“You’ve seen some offensive, idiotic tweets from when I was a teenager that perpetuated harmful and racist stereotypes about Asian Americans,” she wrote. “I apologized for them years ago, but I want to be clear today: I apologize deeply to all of you for the pain this has caused. There’s no excuse for language like that.”

How can we hold someone accountable for their past transgressions while simultaneously allowing them the opportunity and space to grow and show that they are different than who they used to be? Isn’t a part of being held accountable also proving that one’s actions and behaviors have changed, hopefully for the better? If we were just to cancel every person that’s done something wrong or discriminatory, where would that leave us?

To be completely honest, I don’t have all the answers.

Cancel culture is very real and can cause a lot of damage. Sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate between just canceling someone altogether because of a specific incident or looking at the incident(s) in question and all of the following parts thereafter as a whole. However, I don’t think any of us are beyond reproach. If we’re honest, we all have some work to do to ensure that we’re creating a safe and inclusive environment for all people, not just in the workplace but in our everyday lives.

Yes, I am angered by what McCammond did in her past, and as a reader of Teen Vogue, I’ve lost some trust in her. But at the same time, I’ve seen that she’s committed herself to being a better person and has grown up. McCammond has dedicated her career to “giving a voice to the voiceless” and has yet to shy away from any of the criticism she’s received and is working on being more inclusive and diversifying the voices that are shared via Teen Vogue’s platform.

McCammond has also said she’s been “inspired by recent conversations with the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and “other industry leaders who are willing to help [her] think through how [she] will be implementing lasting, long-term, critical changes to our coverage and who share my desire to ensure that we remain a safe and inclusive workplace.”

Many people both inside and outside of the fashion world have called on McCammond to continue to take responsibility for her actions and prove that she’s changed for the better. Actress Olivia Munn weighed in too. Munn acknowledged how McCammond’s past tweets were “triggering” and “hard to read,” but that she also believes that McCammond “should be judged more on how she’s taking the responsibility today.”

Part of McCammond’s way of taking responsibility includes vowing to share a “comprehensive plan about Teen Vogue’s editorial commitment to uplifting and reflecting the true complexities and beauties of the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community.” I hope that if McCammond stays in her new role, which she is set to start on March 24, that she continues to be held accountable and does her best to grow from the situation and prove to all of us that she is committed to maintaining a safe and inclusive workplace for the community at large.


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