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.