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Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens to Stop Locking Up Black Beauty Products

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  • Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS have all announced they will stop locking up multicultural beauty products. 
  • The moves come amid criticism that the companies were engaging in a form of institutionalized racism by locking up Black beauty products but not their mainstream counterparts, implying that Black people are more likely to steal.
  • While this criticism is nothing new, it gained traction this week after KCNC-TV in Denver reported on a woman who had criticized the practice on social media. 

Companies Unlock Black Beauty Products From Behind Glass

Major retail chains like Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS now say they will stop locking beauty products aimed at people of color behind glass cases.

The move is the latest in a series of sweeping changes that have happened this week alone. TV shows like “Cops” and “Live PD” were canceled, the film “Gone with the Wind” was temporarily pulled from HBO Max, confederate monuments are being removed or defaced at a rapid pace, and confederate flags were banned from being displayed by the Marine Corps and NASCAR

All of those changes largely come in the wake of the death of George Floyd, as well as those of Breonna Taylor and Ahamud Arbery. Among massive calls for reform to law enforcement, protests over these deaths have also sparked conversations on other racist aspects of American culture.

It’s not uncommon for retailers to lock up products they say have higher theft rates (video games, tools, razor blades, etc). Beauty products aimed at people of color, however, tend to be among those products that find themselves behind a glass barrier, even if their generic counterparts aren’t.

Many times, those products are also locked up in neighborhoods that are predominantly Black, and stores have faced criticism for locking up more items in Black neighborhoods compared to those in predominantly white neighborhoods.

“If you lock up products for Black people and you aren’t doing that for products for white customers, that is discriminatory,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, told The Associated Press. “It is out of step with the times we are living now.”

On Wednesday, Walmart—the largest grocery retailer in the United States—said it would ban locking up multicultural beauty products.

“We’re sensitive to the issue and understand the concerns raised by our customers and members of the community and have made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair care and beauty products—a practice in place in about a dozen of our 4,700 stores nationwide—in locked cases,” the company said in a statement.

“As a retailer serving millions of customers every day from diverse backgrounds, Walmart does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

The move comes after KCNC-TV in Denver reported that Walmart was locking up Black beauty products at a location in the city.

Notably, Walmart was sued for discrimination over the practice in 2018. That lawsuit, which claimed that Walmart was implying Black people are more likely to steal, was dropped last year.

Following Walmart’s announcement, both Walgreens and CVS followed suit.

“We are currently ensuring multicultural hair care and beauty products are not stored behind locked cases at any of our stores,” Walgreens said in a statement on Thursday.

“We have a firm nondiscrimination policy that applies to all aspects of our business and our product protection measures have never been based on the race or ethnicity of our customers,” CVS said in a statement on Thursday. 

“After reviewing the security measures we have in place for many different products and categories, we are taking steps in our stores to ensure that no hair, beauty or personal care products for communities of color are kept in locked displays or shelving units,” it added.

CVS went on to note that the company has grown its “textured hair and color categories” by 35% recently. It said it has also added new items and brands targeted towards communities of color. 

Customers Criticize the Practice as Racist

KCNC-TV reported on Walmart locking up Black beauty products after a customer complained of the practice on social media. 

“White privilege also extends to hair care products apparently in Walmart,” that customer, Lauren Epps, says in the video.

“But apparently, the multicultural hair care is all locked behind the glass cause I bet you think we’re just going to run up in here and steal it. That’s so ridiculous.”

Epps later told KCNC-TV that this is just another form of implicit bias people of color face daily. She also said the practice is personally frustrating because it makes it difficult for her to browse and read product descriptions.

In another practice that is not uncommon, Epps said once she selected a product, an sales associate then took it out of the case and put it in another locked case, this one portable. From there, Epps said she left without buying the product.

Epps also criticized Walmart for saying it locks up more expensive products that are prone to higher rates of theft, especially since she said she found more expensive, mainstream hair care products not behind glass.

“They could say these are the most shoplifted items, but you can’t convince me that every single item in there is on their radar,” Epps said. 

Epps is not alone in her criticism. Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, a Black digital marketing leader, said she finds it annoying to have to wait for employees to unlock beauty products at certain locations only to find them not locked up in predominantly white neighborhoods. In fact, she said she’s stopped going to stores with such practices in place.

“It sends a message of being prosecuted as soon as you walk in, disrespected and generalized in a way that is psychological troubling because it is based on the race of your skin or where you live and nothing more,” she told the AP.

See what others are saying: (MarketWatch) (The New York Times) (CNN Business)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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