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The Impact of Racism in the Retail Industry


One would think, in the 21st century, that retail discrimination against black customers would be a thing of the past. Sadly, however, a recent incident involving actress Zendaya, proves that thought wrong. The 20-year-old actress says that while trying to purchase $400 worth of gift cards, the clerk at the register had told her that she couldn’t afford them. Not only did she say that she couldn’t afford it, she actually tossed her wallet at her. Yes, she apparently tossed the wallet back to her. Zendaya, being understandably pissed off, did what any 20-year old would do; go immediately to Snapchat. In the video, she and one of her friends go off on the prejudice clerk, saying “I don’t think she was a huge fan of our skin tone.” After getting her wallet tossed back at her, like she’s at a diner in Birmingham in 1957, she proceeds to have a manager come over and take care of the situation. The only thing that came to mind, after hearing about this story, was A Different World. Remember the episode when Whitley tries to buy jewelry for her dad and the racist clerk keeps assuming that she can’t afford it and gives her an attitude? Yeah this is pretty much the same deal, except Zendaya was a lot less nice about it, and God bless her for it.

But really, is anybody shocked? Retail has NEVER been good to black people; just look at Victoria’s Secret. They’re cautious about even including any models who who don’t have a pitch perfect body, let alone someone with an even slightly dark skin complexion. But I can vouch for this treatment because I had a similar situation as Zendaya’s. A few years ago I had purchased a car. While going to the DMV, me and my father waited to get the temporary tags. There was a young white boy and his mother ahead of us; and the man behind the desk was cracking jokes and being extremely polite to them. When it was me and my father’s turn, the man’s attitude changed almost instantaneously. He was humorless and cold towards us and seemed almost annoyed. While this is a lot less dramatic than getting my wallet tossed back at me, it showed that I seemed to be almost an annoyance to the person behind the counter. And I’ve seen this happen to black people before and sadly it will most likely continue to happen. Zendaya put it best when she said “There’s so much progress to be done in our world.”


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