A Long Island Walmart has reversed its decision to store Black hair products in a locked case that could only be opened by management after being met with wide scrutiny and backlash.
“That’s discrimination,” shopper Patricia Fulford bluntly told CBS New York.
Fulford was the one who accused the store of racial profiling after having to wait for 10 minutes for the case to be unlocked so she could gather the items she wanted.
“So I went and found the manager and said, ‘I’m waiting for the key for shampoo and conditioner.’ I said, ‘But let me ask you, why are the black hair products locked up and not the white hair products?’ He said, ‘Um, um,’ and another associate said, ‘Well, people have been stealing,’” Fulford said.
Fulford told the news station that she understood the policy of locking away expensive items such as electronics, cosmetics and baby formula, but the products for Black hair care that were locked up only went up to about $25 at most. That and the fact that products typically used for straighter hair were out in the open.
“It’s just not right that I have to wait for a key to get shampoo and conditioner and my fellow shopper does not,” Fulford said.
Walmart corporate responded to the incident saying that “discrimination of any kind is not tolerated. Decisions for enhanced security are made on a store-by-store basis.”
However, Riverhead Town Council member Catherine Kent, who is on the Anti-Bias Task Force, said that her meeting with management did not end the way she hoped.
“They said this was based on data of theft in the store and we asked to see the data, and at that point she referred us to call 1-800-Walmart,” Kent said.
Additionally, Corrine Graham, who is with Long Island’s African-American Chamber of Commerce said that the message sent by the display was harmful.
“As the number one retailer, they have a social responsibility to do the right thing and that means become more inclusive and pay attention to the needs of the community they are serving,” Graham said.