LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Walmart was accused of racial discrimination today by a black woman who claims beauty products designed for black people were kept in a locked glass case at a Riverside County store, while products for other races were displayed on open shelves.
A Walmart spokesman, however, strongly denied the allegation, saying the company does ``not tolerate discrimination of any kind.''
Essie Grundy, at a Los Angeles news conference with her attorney, Gloria Allred, said she was unable to touch or read the ingredients on the locked-up products at the Perris Walmart store. To buy one of the products, she had to summon a store employee who unlocked the display case then escorted her to a cashier so she could to pay for the item before she could even touch it, Grundy said.
``We have different textured hair than other people,'' she said. ``I just feel that we should be treated equally.''
She said she shouldn't be treated differently ``just because of a complexion.''
``We're all human,'' she said. ``We deserve to be treated (like) everyone else.''
Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson said the company will review Grundy's complaint, but insisted the company does not discriminate. He noted that some products are locked or kept under tighter security, suggesting they are more at risk of theft.
``We're sensitive to this situation and also understand, like other retailers, that some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products are subject to additional security,'' he said. ``Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis using data supporting the need for heightened measures.
``While we've yet to review a complaint, we take this situation seriously and look forward to addressing it with the court.''
Allred showed reporters a cellphone video Grundy took of the locked display case containing products aimed at black customers -- including a 48- cent comb. Meanwhile, other beauty products were kept on open shelves and could be handled and picked up by customers without any employee assistance.
``That is discrimination in our view,'' Allred said. ``That is second- class citizenship. That is being treated with the utmost disrespect. That's racial profiling of a customer who has no criminal history and it's all based on a stereotype.''
She dismissed the contention by Walmart that the issue was one of security, saying the situation smacks of discrimination.
``If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck, OK?'' she said.
Grundy said she has never had to personally cope with racism directed at her.
``It's kind of hard to explain my emotions, but it wasn't a good feeling and I had to stand up and say something about it,'' she said. ``I am not used to the media, doing all this type of stuff. I never did it before, but it was something I had to stand up for.''
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