On Aug. 4, an El Paso, Texas, Walmart was the site of one of the deadliest mass shootings in the history of this country, sparking renewed debate about whether the retailer should still be in the gun business. This, after its Beavercreek, Ohio, location earned the dubious distinction of being the site of the 2014 killing of John Crawford III, a 22-year-old black father shot on sight for daring to pick up and examine one of the store’s openly displayed BB guns. Notably, Walmart claims to be in support of “common-sense gun control,” according to CNN. But despite the tragedies, the retailer has no plans to stop selling guns.
Instead, Walmart apparently considers black beauty consumers the true menace to society; the company continues to face racial discrimination allegations as a result of some locations’ practice of keeping black beauty products—and only black beauty products—in locked glass cases.
“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,” Jasmine Saunders, a shopper at a Walmart in Riverside, Calif., told NBC News in a report published Monday. “It was embarrassing to feel a part of a group being singled out,” she continued. “I left my cart just sitting in an aisle.”
Saunders’ frustration echoes that of Essie Grundy of Perris, Calif., who filed suit against Walmart in January of 2018 after a similar experience, also in Riverside County. Like Saunders, Grundy’s suit described being forced to wait until a store associate unlocked the case, then having her selected items held at the register prior to payment. The irony is that this should happen in California, which in July became the first state in the nation to pass the CROWN Act, legislation specifically created to end discrimination against black hair textures and styles. But as NBC notes, Walmart has garnered similar complaints on Long Island, N.Y., and even a petition against store management in Virginia.
“One poor girl was trying to look up products on her phone because you can’t even pick the products up to read directions, ingredients, et cetera,” Saunders told NBC News. Upon visiting a second Walmart location, she said she encountered the same issue, this time accompanied by a sign that read “Reducing theft helps us all by keeping prices low. Security cameras in use.”
While Walmart didn’t comment on NBC’s story, attorney Gloria Allred, who represents Grundy in her pending suit, disputes the retailers’ stance—as well as the party line given by a Walmart employee Saunders spoke to—that the security measures aren’t racialized, but simply in place to protect the items stolen most frequently.
“We disagree,” Allred told NBC. “We believe that if Walmart is concerned about security, it should lock up the shelves of all products.”
And really, if security is Walmart’s greatest concern, don’t they have more dangerous products to worry about?