Your Intentions Don’t Negate the Outcome

Target has decided to lock up all the hair care products for brown people. Just brown people.

Target has decided to lock up all the hair care products for brown people. Just brown people.

ETA: After receiving criticism from the local community, Target removed the cases although at this point they have not come forward with a reason why they were put up in the first place. I’m ecstatic that the store realized their error and have taken steps to correct it! However, this post is less about Target and more about how similar actions happen in our day to day lives. People say and do racist/xphobic things daily and even if they didn’t mean it that way, it does need to be brought to their attention. 

If someone steps on your foot but they didn’t mean it, does it stop hurting? No. They still owe you an apology. They still hurt you. Even if they were stepping out of the way of another person and had good reason that doesn’t make it OK for them to harm you. If no one ever says “Ow, you’re stepping on my foot!” then no one is ever going to learn to be mindful of where they step. Target’s action caused harm and insult even if that’s not what they meant to do, it’s what happened. They only removed them after people pointed out to them their mistake. Hopefully they’re more mindful in the future. 

In Eagle Rock, California, which is a neighborhood located in North East Los Angeles, there is a Target that has made the choice to lock up all the hair care supplies for “naturals + textured” hair. This is short hand for “People of Color’s hair”. The “normal” hair supplies are not locked up. Only the ones that people with more melanin in their skin are likely to buy. Target probably did this for loss prevention reasons but it doesn’t matter why they did it, the end result is extremely racist.

There seems to be this drive to excuse actions if their intent wasn’t to be harmful but the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what your intent was. All that matters is the outcome. Lack of awareness or forethought does not excuse Target or any other company from being called out for their insensitive choices.

Ignorance does not absolve you.

Did Target MEAN to help perpetuate negative stereotypes regarding PoC with this display? No. Probably not. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t.

That doesn’t mean that woman who is running in to grab some hair cream and has to wait for an associate to unlock the case and hand her the correct bottle while all around her white women are allowed to pick up what they need unfettered isn’t deeply embarrassed. That doesn’t mean that the white people seeing this aren’t subconsciously or even very consciously using this instance to frame PoC as thieves and other harmful stereotypes.

That wasn’t Target’s intent but that doesn’t mean that it’s not what’s happening.

Right now, Target is the company wearing the bullseye (ha!) but big corporations aren’t the only ones who fall prey to this intent vs outcome issue. Everyday people do this. They say something, a joke, an observation and they don’t mean to be racist/sexist/transphobic/whatever but the end result is.

People need to be called on these. It’s uncomfortable and but it needs to be done.

Do I think Target is a racist company? No, but the choice they made was. Do I think my friend who commented “Just because they make it in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it,” is fatphobic? No, but I think her comment was. And in both cases, they need to be made aware of the ways that their comments and actions are affecting oppressed groups.

Giving these slights a pass is what lets hate filled ideology continue to live in our society. Excusing casual slights just leads to larger issues later. We cannot destroy the larger issues unless we chip away at these minor ones.

Don’t give Target a pass. Don’t give your phobic friends a pass. Their intentions don’t matter when the outcome is harmful.

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13 thoughts on “Your Intentions Don’t Negate the Outcome

  1. racismandculture says:

    Very persuasive writing. I particularly appreciate your stance on how you believe the words people say or actions can be poor but that doesn’t make the person that way like how you said “Do I think Target is a racist company? No, but the choice they made was.”

  2. Terry says:

    One aisle over Target has the Oil of Olay items that white people use locked up. Stupid article… The store has to do something to prevent theft or they ended up having to increase their prices for everyone.

  3. Ryanne says:

    They lock up stuff like teeth whitening strips, razors, prescription drugs, sudafed, and anything else that is high theft. Is that racist? No. Is this article stupid? Yes.

    • Donyae says:

      The fact that many people just blindly accept that all products made for people of color’s hair is a high theft item (all, not some) is also part of the problem.

  4. Michelle Borok says:

    A friend just went to the Eagle Rock Target to see if this was the case and to complain if so. She just shared pictures of the shelves with AA hair products NOT locked up. Can I ask where or when you got this photo? If there’s another Target that needs a verbal lashing, I’d like to know, but this particular Target doesn’t seem to be the right target.

    • Donyae says:

      It IS the correct Target. The picture was sent to me by a friend who lives in the area. If you go to my Facebook page there is a tweet from Target in the comments for this post notifying customers that they removed the locks (I haven’t had a chance to update here with that information and picture).

      They were deluged with letters, phone calls, etc from people who lived in that area and were upset with the decision to put the products behind bars and spoke out against it.

  5. Michelle Borok says:

    Also, I just got a reply from the Target FB page: Hi Michelle – We appreciate the time you have taken to share your concerns, thoughts and feelings about this issue. Your feedback is very important to us and we are sharing your feedback with the store operations team. It shouldn’t be long before you notice the cases are gone. Have a great weekend. – Claudia

    The cases are already gone, but they really need to talk to the public about why they were put up in the first place at ANY of their locations.

    • Donyae says:

      Yes, the cases were removed after this blog ran and a deluge of complaints from local people. I agree that transparency surrounding why this choice was made to begin with is needed.

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