Walmart is in the news yet again for criminalizing Black haircare. The retail giant made headlines last year after several complaints and lawsuits for locking up and segregating “hair and body products meant for African Americans” in stores across the country.
The most recent news comes from California — which became the first state last month to ban hair discrimination. Jasmine Saunders filed suit after visiting two separate Walmart locations that had products locked up. One had a sign that read, “Reducing theft helps us all by keeping prices low. Security cameras in use,” she told NBC News.
Jasmine’s picture (above) shows Black hair care and beauty products sitting in the aisle locked behind anti-theft glass cases while other more expensive products remained open and accessible.
“I could not believe the emotional response it elicited,” she said. “I felt as if the second I stepped into that aisle, that it had already been determined I’m a potential thief, as well as anyone else who looks like me.”
This is now California’s second lawsuit, following Essie Grundy’s January 2018 discrimination suit for having to wait for her products — including a 48-cent comb — to be unlocked and, once selected, held at the counter for her to purchase. Customers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Virginia have also accused locations of discrimination.
“It was embarrassing to feel a part of a group being singled out,” said Jasmine.
A Walmart spokesman said the company’s policy is not based on racism, but on what products it deems most likely to be stolen.
“We’re sensitive to this situation and also understand, like other retailers, that some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics, and other personal care products are subject to additional security,” said LeMia Jenkins, a Walmart spokeswoman said.
“We disagree,” said Essie’s attorney Gloria Allred said. “We believe that if Walmart is concerned about security, it should lock up the shelves of all products.”
The news comes in the wake of the country’s deadliest mass shooting which took place Aug. 3 at a Texas Walmart. Customers have also noted that, in 2014, a Black man was killed by police in Ohio after picking up an unpackaged BB gun in the store.
“I can’t understand how they are getting away with this, and that people are continuing to accept this as normal and acceptable,” Jasmine told NBC. “I’m a teacher, and I want the students in my class to know that this is not normal, it’s not OK, and they do not look like criminals.”