A mom in southern California was shopping at her local Walmart when she noticed the beauty products targeted at African-Americans were separated from the rest and locked in a glass case. She is now suing the company for segregating the products and racial discrimination.
In a press conference on Friday, Essie Grundy said, “I felt that I was being treated as a person who might be a thief, even though I have no criminal history.”
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Grundy, a mother of five, said in a press conference that she didn’t understand why the $0.48 comb she was buying was locked away when other more expensive, non-African American products were not. She said the staff explained the policy to “segregate” these products came from headquarters. Then, in order to buy the product, she said she had to be escorted to the register, unable to touch it until it was purchased.
Women’s rights lawyer, Gloria Allred, is representing Grundy. In the same press conference, she stated, “It perpetuates a racial stereotype that African Americans are thieves.”
Grundy visited other nearby locations and found that they had a slightly different, but similar set up. Additionally, she found that cosmetics for black shoppers were under heavier surveillance.
Once Grundy’s story caught wind, images started to circulate online showing similar circumstances at Walmart’s all around the country.
On Twitter, @Kadia2_ shared a photo of her local Walmart, writing, “If Walmart is gonna lock up hair products they need to do it for all of them not only the ethnic hair products.”
If Walmart is gonna lock up hair products they need to do it for all of them not only the ethnic hair products pic.twitter.com/XcnajuNNsV
— Khadijah (@Kadia2_) January 22, 2018
Another Twitter user, @_ashleyjanae_, simply posted a picture of ethnic hair products behind a glass case, captioned, “Hempstead Walmart.”
Hempstead Walmart ? pic.twitter.com/ds4nUghJrJ
— Ashhh ? (@_ashleyjanae_) January 24, 2018
The retailer has responded to the allegations. In a statement to Newsweek, they said, “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. Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis using data supporting the need for the heightened measures. While we’ve yet to review a complaint, we take this situation seriously and look forward to addressing it with the court.”
The Walmart spokesperson further explained that certain security measures are taken based on data collected by the individual stores. The varying levels of security are due to managerial decisions.
“A high-value item in Washington or California or Colorado is not necessarily going to be a high-value item in Virginia or Tennessee,” said the spokesman. “That’s why you have fishing equipment locked up in Florida.”
It is unclear what the damages Grundy is seeking are, but the lawsuit does demand that these circumstances change immediately. “I never want my children, or anyone else’s children, to experience what I did at Walmart that day,” she said.