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February 22, 2024

Target Pulls Controversial Black History Month Product After Backlash

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Feb 5, 2024

Target has pulled a Black History Month educational product from its shelves after a social media uproar over factual errors. The magneticlearning kit, intended to teach children about iconic civil rights leaders, mixed up names and photos – sparking accusations of cultural insensitivity.

Product Contains Glaring Mistakes

The controversial product, spotted by a shopper at a Las Vegas Target store, consisted of a booklet and magnetic figures of pioneering Black leaders. However, it incorrectly identified the pictured icons:

  • Harriet Tubman’s photo was labeled as Rosa Parks
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was captioned as W.E.B Du Bois
  • Frederick Douglass was called Jesse Owens

A TikTok video exposing the errors went viral this week, garnering over a million views. Target swiftly reacted by withdrawing the item from sale both online and in-stores.

The retailer explained that the mistakes were “unacceptable” and apologized for any offense caused. A spokesperson said Target values diversity and inclusion, which makes the blunder even more disappointing. They are currently reviewing their processes to prevent similar issues happening again.

Furious Social Media Reaction

Outraged shoppers and anti-racism advocates lined up to criticize the culturally-insensitive product across social platforms:

  • Target’s Instagram was flooded with complaints about stereotyping and #Blackerasure
  • Over 100,000 tweeted under the hashtag #Targetsowhite
  • A TikTok campaign called #boycotttarget started trending

Many called for Target executives and product buyers to undergo mandatory diversity training. Others suggested the magnetic kit demonstrated wider problems of systemic racism that needed addressing within the company.

High-profile voices added their condemnation, including academic Dr Cornel West and Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King. This kept the story trending for days across traditional and social media outlets.

Previous Diversity Controversies

This isn’t the first time Target has faced allegations of cultural insensitivity regarding products or internal practices:

  • In 2021, the store was forced to remove black and brown skin-colored plasters after complaints they only catered for white skin tones
  • Target settled a racial discrimination lawsuit in 2020 brought by three African-American employees
  • In 2017, customers spotted a cartoons showing a lack of diversity compared to America’s multicultural population

The store has made efforts to increase minority representation – such as introducing dedicated multi-cultural beauty and haircare sections. However, campaigners say there is still more progress needed in terms of racial sensitivity.

“Target needs to get serious about examining its internal culture, not just make token PR gestures,” said Black Lives Matter campaigner Chelsea Smith. “Mistakes like this don’t happen by accident – they flow from how the company views diversity issues.”

Immediate Financial Impact

The public relations disaster has already impacted Target’s bottom line according to analysts. The company’s share price fell 2.4% in the wake of the scandal – wiping $1.2 billion off its market value.

“These cultural errors can be costly if brands don’t deal with them swiftly and transparently,” said crisis communications expert Amanda Bell. “Target has worked quickly to remove the product and apologize, but they need to follow up with concrete action internally to reassure stakeholders.”

According to equity analysts Centerview Partners, over 12% of Target’s customer base are African-American. The controversy could lead shoppers to take their business elsewhere unless the store can rebuild trust.

“This was an easily avoidable mistake that will hamper marketing efforts to increase market share among Black communities,” said Centerview’s retail analyst Stacy Charles. “Target likely faces a long road ahead to repair its reputation – and finances.”

What Next For Target?

Target now faces pressure to introduce new policies and training to prevent any repeat of this situation. Suggested measures include:

  • Appointing a Diversity Director to assess all products and policies
  • Setting up advisory panels from minority groups
  • Introducing racial sensitivity programs for buyers and marketers
Action Timeline Cost
Diversity Audits 6 months $250k
Staff Training Ongoing $500k per year
Community Panels 9 months $150k

The retailer also needs to consider if any personnel changes are required. There are calls for those responsible for acquiring and marketing the inaccurate educational kit to be disciplined or even dismissed.

Meanwhile, Target is withdrawing any remaining stock from its stores and websites. This will likely cost around $2 million according to inventory analysts. The company has not announced plans for any financial compensation for those offended by the product.

For now, Target is keeping quiet about exact next steps. But with the weight of public opinion demanding concrete action, the pressure is on the retail giant to implement real reforms. The coming months will determine if Target can rebuild consumer trust – or will face further backlash over diversity issues.

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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