'Outrageous' supermarket snap sparks racism row

Penny Burfitt
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

A photo snapped in an American supermarket has sparked serious debate online after a confronting detail revealed a disparity between the treatment of products for Black and white customers.

Two photos were shared to Twitter by user Jesus Rodriguez over the weekend that he took in the hair care aisle of a local Walmart.

An image of a shelf of hair care products seemed innocuous, until it was compared with the sight across the aisle. Photo: Twitter/jesusrodriguezb

The first image shows hair care products used mainly by non-black customers sitting on shelves.

The second shows products specialising in thick, curly hair, almost exclusively used by Black men and women, locked behind a security screen.

The products specific to black hair were spotted behind a thick security screen. Photo: Twitter/jesusrodriguezb

The two photos, of the same type of products in the same aisle being treated with such different security standards has powerfully summed up much of the discussion around the over-policing of minority, but in particular Black communities in the US.

The debate around the treatment of Black people by police and law enforcement has been ongoing for years, but reached boiling point when footage of George Floyd being killed by a police officer kicked off mass protests across the country.

“It’s more than just the police,” Jesus captioned the two photos.

Debate erupts over ‘vile’ photos

The seemingly straightforward image has kicked off quite a heated debate online however, as some pointed out that some shops lock up items that are stolen at higher frequencies.

“Former loss prevention officer at Wal-Mart,” one man identified himself. “They keep track of high theft items so if something is behind glass it means it got stolen a lot in the past.”

Another who also worked in the field refuted the point however, arguing the system was ‘bullsh*t’.

“... as a white person who literally works in loss prevention right now, I will say that the practice is bullsh*t,” she wrote.

“In my opinion: 1) If you're going to lock up hair products, lock all of them up, or none at all. 2) Maybe if Black hair products weren't expensive, people would steal them less. (Sometimes people steal sh*t *because* it's valuable. Resale value.)”

With no official word confirming if there was any data behind the decision, people remain furious at the blatant show of discrimination.

“What the frick is this? Did this store really lock up black hair products?” One gobsmacked onlooker wrote.

“In my home town they put theft devices on the underwear in our dollar store but I have never seen this before? It's as outrageous as it is stupid.”

“Holy hell this makes me sad that I’ve never recognised all the little things,” another wrote.

“This is vile,” another agreed.

Photos show discrepancy between white and black products

A photo from a Target store shows dark foundation security tagged. Photo: Twitter/Tahlia_Rene

Others shared other products they had discovered that betrayed serious racial bias when it came to security.

“This was in 2018, at Walmart in my very white hometown,” one woman wrote alongside an image of dark Mabelline concealers locked up next to unshackled light concealers.

The confronting photo comes as wider conversations around racism and racial biases are held not only in the US but all around the globe.

In Australia, tens of thousands of protesters marched in major cities in support of Black Live Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter.

It came after debate around the safety of marches during the ongoing social distancing measure.

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