- 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.”
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)
AMC Will Set Movie Ticket Prices Based on Seat Locations
The decision has faced backlash, but AMC executives claim it will ensure that “guests have more control over their experience.”
Sightline by AMC
AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S., is changing its price metric by charging more at admission for preferred seats and offering value seats at a lower cost.
The new pricing experiment is called Sightline by AMC, and it offers three different tiers. Value Sightline includes the seats right next to the screen, while Preferred Sightline includes seats that are centered and in the middle of the theater. The average seats, or Standard Sightline, will remain at the normal price of admission.
“While every seat at AMC delivers an amazing moviegoing experience, we know there are some moviegoers who prioritize their specific seat and others who prioritize value moviegoing,” AMC’s executive vice president and CMO Eliot Hamlisch said to Variety. “Sightline at AMC accommodates both sentiments to help ensure that our guests have more control over their experience, so that every trip to an AMC is a great one.”
However, Sightline will not apply to AMC’s Discount Tuesday deal — every ticket will still be offered at $5 regardless of seat location. Sightline will also only apply to evening shows after 4:00 p.m.
The movie theater giant has faced backlash for this new price structure, including from people in the entertainment industry.
“This is absurdly stupid & only creates unnecessary classism,” actor and director Seth Green wrote on Twitter. “AMCTheatres clearly focused on squeezing new profits anywhere possible. Trying to get people back into theaters? Don’t penalize folks with less to spend.”
Actor Elijah Wood also condemned the change for disproportionately impacting lower-income families.
“The movie theater is and always has been a sacred democratic space for all and this new initiative by AMCTheatres would essentially penalize people for lower income and reward for higher income,” Wood wrote.
This is not the first time AMC has experimented with its pricing. During the opening weekend of “The Batman” last year, AMC announced it would be charging $1 to $2 more for it compared to other movies playing at the same time. Back in 2019, the chain tested a different pricing initiative, charging more for movies “of the highest appeal” and making less in-demand movies cheaper.
Neo-Nazi Leader Charged in Plot to “Destroy Baltimore” By Attacking Substations — a Growing Trend
Experts say that far-right extremist attacks on energy infrastructure have grown significantly in the last few years.
Conspiracy to Attack Maryland Energy Systems
A neo-Nazi leader who was recently released from prison and a woman he met while incarcerated were arrested on Monday for plotting to “completely destroy” the power grid in Baltimore, Maryland.
Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI field office in Baltimore said in a press conference that the two had “conspired to inflict maximum harm on the power grid,” by targeting five electrical substations that serve 1.2 million people in central Maryland.
He noted that the pair ”were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals.”
Their plot, however, was foiled by law enforcement before they could put it into action, in large part because both extensively detailed their plans to an FBI informant on encrypted messaging apps.
Sobocinski described their extremist views as “racially or ethnically motivated.”
The neo-Nazi leader is the founder of a small but dangerous group called the Atomwaffen Division, which uses civil disorder and violence because they believe it will help spark a race war in the U.S. — a white supremacist theory known as “accelerationism.”
Authorities say that he previously plotted with his roommates — also members of the group — to attack energy facilities in Florida. Before he could, he was arrested and put in federal prison for possessing bomb-making materials.
During that time, he began to communicate with the woman, who was serving time in a separate facility in Maryland after being charged with robbing multiple convenience stores with a machete.
Authorities point to several pieces of evidence that indicate she too had been radicalized, including a statement she wrote that prosecutors say resembles a manifesto, in which she references Hitler, the Unabomber, and a far-right Norwegian terrorist and stated: “I would sacrifice **everything** for my people.”
The woman’s mother also told The Washington Post that she had become involved with neo-Nazi beliefs in prison, which she has been in and out of since 2006.
A Growing Trend
Federal law enforcement officials have said there is “no indication” the planned attack in Baltimore was connected to other attacks. The plot, however, comes on the heels of similar events.
In early December, there were a series of attacks on substations in North Carolina that were very reminiscent of what the pair in Maryland were plotting. In fact, prosecutors even said the neo-Nazi leader sent the FBI informant a video about that attack.
While authorities have provided little information on a suspect or motive in North Carolina, it has been reported that they have zeroed in on two possibilities that both center around far-right extremism.
Around the same time in December, there were also a series of attacks on the grid in the Pacific Northwest.
Researchers and homeland security officials have said that far-right extremists have been increasingly targeting energy infrastructure while operating under the neo-Nazi theory of accelerationism.
According to a study by the program on extremism at George Washington University released in September, white supremacist attempts to target energy systems “dramatically increased in frequency” from 2016 to 2022.
“Since 2019, white supremacist attacks plots against critical infrastructure systems have distinctly increased,” the study found.
Brian Harrell, a former Homeland Security official who oversaw infrastructure protection at the department, told The Post that he saw a noticeable surge in violent extremists talking about carrying out these attacks online.
“When digging into the ‘dark web,’ social media portals and chat rooms, we quickly see that targeting and destroying energy infrastructure is a tactic many extremist groups fantasize about,” he said.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War
As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.
College Board Rolls Out Curriculum
The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.
The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.
In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.”
Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.
Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.
According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.
Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”
It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism.
The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”
DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War
DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.
Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”
Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.”
To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.
Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too.
Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.