Beauty giant Dove has partnered with a Black Lives Matter activist to promote “fat liberation,” after she was accused of wrongfully getting a white student expelled from her university over a “misheard” remark.
Zyanha Bryant, a community organizer and student activist studying at the University of Virginia, made the announcement she was a “Dove ambassador” on her Instagram page at the end of August, as she spoke about her goal of ending the stigma of being overweight.
“My belief is that we should be centering the voices and the experiences of the most marginalized people and communities at all times,” Bryant, 22, said in a video.
“So when I think about what fat liberation looks like to me, I think about centering the voices of those who live in and who maneuver through spaces and institutions in a fat body.”
She captioned her video by saying, “Fat liberation is something we should all be talking about… Tell us what Fat Liberation means to you using the hashtag #SizeFreedom and tagging @dove to share your story.”
But even though Bryant has been praised for her work with Black Lives Matter and getting the Robert E. Lee statue taken down in Charlottesville, she has also come under fire in recent months for her efforts to get a white student named Morgan Bettinger suspended from campus.
She claimed Bettinger referred to BLM protesters as “good speed bumps” in the summer of 2020 – only to later admit she may have “misheard” her.
The incident began in July 2020, when Bettinger mistakenly drove down a street where BLM protesters had gathered.
She told Reason Magazine she saw a dump truck partially blocking the road, but because the street was not completely blocked off she continued driving.
When she realized the road was actually being blocked off from traffic, Bettinger said she decided to park her car and decided to see what was going on.
As she passed by, Bettinger said, the truck driver began talking to her, and the two had a brief conversation.
Bettinger says she remembered telling the truck driver something along the lines of, “It’s a good thing that you are here because otherwise these people would have been speed bumps,” trying to praise his efforts to block traffic.
The driver later corroborated Bettinger’s remark to local cops.
But Bryant overheard part of the conversation and tweeted that she said the protesters “would make ‘good speedbumps’” along with a video showing Bettinger backing down the street in her car while Bryant and several other protesters follow.
“She then called the police and started crying, saying we were attacking her,” Bryant claimed.
The tweet was quickly shared more than a thousand times, and Internet sleuths soon identified the driver as Bettinger.
The fact that she had pro-police social media posts, and her late father had worked as a police officer only seemed to irate people more, according to the Daily Mail.
Just one day later, Bryant began demanding that school administrators expel Bettinger.
“EMAIL these UVA deans now to demand that Morgan face consequences for her actions and that UVA stop graduating racists,” she tweeted.
Bryant herself filed a complaint with the University Judiciary Committee, a student-run disciplinary system, alleging Bettinger had threatened students’ health and safety.
It found Bettinger guilty of making a legitimate threat against the protesters, despite being unable to prove Bryant’s claims about her intentions.
The jurors ruled that even saying the words in a harmless manner during a protest merited punishment, according to documents obtained by Reason magazine.
Bryant also filed a complaint with the school’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights, in which she claimed Bettinger repeated the statement five times and had discriminated against her due to her race.
The EOCR office found that three of the five accusations could not be corroborated, and a report found Bryant most likely did not hear Bettinger’s comments first-hand after no eyewitnesses were able to corroborate her version of events.
Bettinger eventually graduated from UVA but with a permanent mark on her record, Reason reported, likely hindering her chances of getting into law school as she had dreamed.
“This whole situation has had a huge impact on my life,” she told Reason Magazine. “The university has never had to answer for what their actions have done.”
Bettinger is now said to be considering bringing a lawsuit against school officials, seeking to get her record cleared.
Her lawyers claim her “conviction and punishment were effectuated without a constitutionally sufficient process” because the school had failed to retry her or provide a “de novo review of the clearly erroneous judgment of the UJC,” according to the school newspaper, Cavalier Daily.
Meanwhile, Bryant has continued to make a name for herself, being profiled in the Washington Post and being named to Ebony’s “Power 100” list last year.
The Post has reached out to Dove and its parent company, Unilever, for comment.
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