It’s shameful, but there are plenty of instances of racism within the beauty industry at every single level. We can talk about black models getting completely overlooked at Paris Fashion Week by stylists because of their natural hair, or shade ranges that barely include darker skin tones, or apps that visibly whiten skin. It’s honestly everywhere you look — including the beauty aisles at your local Walmart. Or at least, that’s what you’ll hear if you ask Southern California mom Essie Grundy, who recently visited her Walmart store and had a strange experience while simply trying to purchase a comb. Now, she’s suing the mega-retailer for discrimination.
According to Yahoo Lifestyle, Grundy was shopping at her local Walmart when she noticed that hair products targeted towards African-American customers were kept locked in a glass case while all the other hair products were out on the shelf as normal. She believes this is a result of racial discrimination, and as a result, has decided to sue. She’ll be represented by women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred, who said of the situation, “It perpetuates a racial stereotype that African-Americans are thieves.”
Walmart issued a press release in response stating, “While we’ve yet to review a complaint, we take this situation seriously and look forward to addressing it with the court.” Grundy looks forward to her day in court as well. She said in a press conference on Friday, “I never want my children, or anyone else’s children, to experience what I did at Walmart that day.” Her hope is that suing them for racial discrimination will create some change, as segregation of products in the beauty aisle is apparently not uncommon at Walmart. Tweets have surfaced showing similar organization in other locations.
Further, Grundy said of the experience, “When I walked down the aisle and saw that Walmart had placed all of the African-American hair and skin products under lock and key, I had to pause. I felt that I was being treated as a person who might be a thief, even though I have no criminal history.” Apparently, she wasn’t allowed to touch any of the products prior to purchasing and in fact had to be escorted to the register to do so, though the item she wanted to buy was only a 48 cent comb.
It’s worth noting that black women actually spend the most on beauty products — $7.5 billion dollars annually, or 80 percent more than the general market, according to WWD. And as HuffPost writes, the whole of the black hair-care industry is grossly undervalued in the current market, as black women especially have huge buying power. In fact, future projections have the industry valued at around $500 billion dollars, all told. So in addition to the moral issues here, there’s also no logical reason to lock up hair products that appeal to the people who actually spend the most, right? We’ll just have to see how they argue this one in court.
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