29-year-old Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech has captivated the fashion world with her beauty, from a picture-perfect bone structure to her signature dark skin tone.
The latter feature has proved to be both a career-defining quality and a heavy topic of conversation, sometimes to the extent of being offensive unfortunately. It actually happened recently and resulted in a Columbia University professor being fired after an intended compliment on Twitter backfired into a viral racial debate.
The controversy first began on Monday when Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, now-former chair of the psychiatry department at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, added his opinion where it wasn’t asked for. He quoted a tweet that aimed to praise a picture of Nyakim Gatwech’s skin which referred to it as “not a work of art made of black stone or granite” but as “the most beautiful among the black beauties,” with the original tweet using all caps to also reference her signature moniker, “QUEEN OF DARK.” Lieberman added his own comment by writing, “Whether a work of art or freak of nature she’s a beautiful sight to behold.” That message sent many into attack mode, with accusations that his tweet was unnecessary and quite frankly racist.
Gatwech herself took offense to Lieberman’s comment and the original tweet too, jumping on Instagram (seen above) to personally address the matter by writing, “I have no idea where it originated, but my manager first brought it to my attention in 2020 and although we’ve denied it to multiple fact-checkers, clearly it’s still floating around even after @guinnessworldrecords stated that it does NOT monitor skin tones. I can’t imagine it’s even possible to know who’s the lightest or darkest person on the planet!”
The lengthy caption ended with her stating, “I love my dark skin and my nickname ‘Queen of Dark,’ but I’ve never said I’m the darkest person on Earth.”
As NBC News reports, Columbia University has since suspended Lieberman based on an internal email sent to faculty and staff at the New York City Ivy League college. Lieberman also issued an email apology himself, calling his actions “racist and sexist” and admitting he was “deeply ashamed.” In his apology to “the Black community,” he also wrote, “I’ve hurt many, and I am beginning to understand the work ahead to make needed personal changes and over time regain your trust.” In one final act of sorrow, he also deactivated his Twitter account.
It’s still unclear if he’ll face similar consequences at his other job as psychiatrist-in-chief at Irving Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital, but hopefully this can be a wider lesson in watching what you say.
We’ll leave you all with these:
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