Recently most people, to include myself, became aware of a racial bias allegation against Sephora, a beauty store chain, which sells multiple products for skincare and hair. SZA, a Grammy nominated singer, tweeted about an incident in a California Sephora, where an employee called security on her because she wanted to ensure that she wasn’t stealing items. This allegation shows how profiling certain people and making assumptions based on race, ethnicity, sexual identity or sex can and do go wrong.
I created a poll on Facebook to gauge what people perceived the racial incident to be; institutional or personal, the results are listed above. As you can see most people, 86% who answered the poll saw what happened to SZA as part of institutional racism and 14% saw the incident as a case of personal bias. What I asked was a trick question as there are levels of racism, which result in the type of profiling alleged by SZA.
Institutional racism is embedded in our society in areas such as social and political institutions, which is reflected in the continued disparities we see in the Criminal Justice System, health system, wealth, and educational opportunities. Since institutional racism is so ingrained into our Country as displayed by the fact that African and African Americans were slaves and women were considered property, when the Founders wrote the Constitution, it creates the personal biases we see displayed by people even today. African Americans and women are not the only ones who may and do experience biases as we see or hear about discrimination towards those in the LGBTQI community and immigrants of color.
Today Sephora is closed to conduct diversity training, which they say was planned before the allegation of profiling by SZA, but this continued subjugation of people in America needs to stop and closing for one day is not going to get at the heart of the problem.