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June 24, 2024

Target Pulls Black History Month Product From Shelves After Outcry Over Errors

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Written by AiBot

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Feb 3, 2024

Retail giant Target has swiftly pulled a Black History Month learning product from its stores after a social media outcry over factual errors in the product’s labeling of civil rights icons.

Product Contained Glaring Errors

The magnetic learning activity set, geared towards children for Black History Month, featured images and descriptions of three key civil rights icons – Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks. However, their names and images were mixed up, sparking outrage online.

In one example, a photo of Rosa Parks was labeled as Harriet Tubman. Parks’ act of civil disobedience came in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In contrast, Tubman was a leader of the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s, helping many slaves escape to freedom.

Additionally, an image of MLK Jr. was mislabeled with Parks’ name. The product also had MLK Jr.’s year of birth wrong.

These clear factual errors prompted accusations of racism and calls to pull the product.

Social Media Video Went Viral

The learning kit’s mistakes were first publicly revealed in a viral TikTok video on January 31st by user @jaelaniturnerwilliams. As she examined the product in a Las Vegas Target store, Williams expressed dismay at the clearly wrong information.

The video quickly amassed over 500,000 views and spurred anger in commenters. Many people tagged Target and demanded an explanation and apology.

Video View Statistics
Platform TikTok
Uploader @jaelaniturnerwilliams
Upload Date January 31, 2024
Current Views Over 500,000

Spurred by public pressure from the video, Target acted swiftly to remove the product just two days later.

Target Issues Apology, Recalls All Units

On February 2nd, Target released a statement confirming they had pulled all units of the learning activity from their stores. A spokesperson said:

We value our long history of engaging with the Black community and apologize for the offensive item and labeling that appeared in our stores. We have removed the product from our assortment and are reviewing our process to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.

They also confirmed that no more units would be made or sold. Target stated they would be improving their product review process going forward.

The retail giant carries over 175,000 different products during peak times like Black History Month. So likely quality control failed to properly vet the learning set before allowing it on shelves.

Product Made By Third Party Supplier

Further investigation found that Target did not actually create the product themselves. Rather, a third party supplier named Hand2Mind developed the activity set.

On their website, Hand2Mind advertises materials aimed to help “boost critical thinking, literacy, STEM and social-emotional skills.”

It remains unclear if Target will continue working with this supplier given the major controversy. The product does not appear anywhere on Hand2Mind’s own website.

So ultimately while Target stocks its shelves with items from thousands of outside vendors, the public scrutiny still falls on the retailer for allowing such an offensive product to be sold.

Reaction From Black Community Leaders

Understandably, Black community leaders and historians expressed disappointment over the product’s factual mistakes on such influential civil rights figures.

Dr. Peniel Joseph, a professor of history focusing on civil rights, said the errors were:

“something close to educational malpractice…These factual mistakes risk distorting young children’s perceptions of essential historical figures.”

He argued major corporations like Target must improve oversight of diversity initiatives, especially for impressionable children.

Bernice King, daughter of MLK Jr., tweeted that the product was:

“Sad on many levels. Shows me I/we have more work to do to demand authenticity & integrity from companies, organizations, individuals, etc. peddling or presenting aspects of Black history.”

Besides factual mistakes, King’s comments allude to deeper issues like commodification, tokenization, and profiting from Black history narratives.

Customer Denied From Buying Black History Books

Controversially, one Target store in Jacksonville, Florida took things further by denying a Black customer from purchasing books on African-American history.

Local news station ActionNewsJax reported that in response to the pulled activity set, the San Jose Boulevard Target location removed all Black history educational products. When the female customer tried purchasing three books for her grandchildren, employees blocked the sale, citing a company-wide directive.

Target corporate later clarified this was a miscommunication, and all stores nationwide did not ban Black history books. The broader public outcry had focused solely on the specific learning activity product containing errors – not all educational materials in the subject.

Still, the Jacksonville incident highlights internal confusion in addressing diversity issues appropriately. It also shows the far-reaching impacts from PR crises like this.

Financial Impacts Remain Unclear

So far Target has not released any details on the financial losses from pulling the offensive product.

The activity sets likely did not make up a large share of revenue. But during important seasonal sales periods, even small dips can impact stores’ bottom line.

More concerning is the damage to Target’s brand reputation with minority communities and other key demographics. Though quick to address the controversy publicly, the company must now commit to meaningful change internally.

If profits seem to take priority over properly representing marginalized groups, Target risks further backlash and campaigns to boycott its stores.

What Next For Target?

This incident has sparked intense scrutiny of Target’s product development processes, especially for diversity-related merchandise.

The retailer will likely need to implement stricter controls for checking factual accuracy. Target may also need to drop certain third party suppliers who fail to meet standards, even if it cuts into profits.

In their official apology, Target promised to improve reviews going forward. Now the public will watch closely to see if real systemic change happens.

Target must address deeper issues as well. Namely, how can a major corporation authentically elevate Black narratives rather than rely on tokenization?

Ultimately the controversy shows much work remains in properly honoring Black history beyond just PR campaigns. All companies hoping to tap growing diversity markets must radically reassess internal biases.

If Target can successfully make its corporate values align with brands that enrich marginalized communities, they may come out ahead despite this ugly incident.

AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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