A North Las Vegas Walmart came under fire when shoppers were left aghast by a controversial clothing display. While retail displays are strategically placed to draw the attention of shoppers, this one got a reaction no one likely anticipated when it was seen by thousands of people.
Calling it racist and insensitive, photos of the display from the Lake Mead and Rancho Walmart were posted to social media, eventually drawing the attention of news outlets as shoppers demanded that someone should be punished for the display. However, some don’t see an issue, KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas reported as they asked, “Is a clothing display in a Las Vegas Walmart really racist?”
Hanging from the ceiling by neon green chains, children’s clothing items were displayed in what some say looks representative of a hanging. People saw anything ranging from “people hanging from the ceiling” and “mannequins of people hanging from the top of the roof” to something much worse. One said it was offensive because “people kill themselves,” but most of those who took issue did so because of race.
Since some of the attire was black, many became furious as they felt the display was a racist gesture. “Four black items hanging from the ceiling as if they were four black people,” one man said, explaining what he thought the display represented, while another said it was reminiscent of the “Ku Klux Klan” with “black people hanging from the ceiling.” But, there were those who saw things entirely differently.
“Definitely creepy-looking at best. Why not just hang individual articles of clothing instead of whole outfits?” one person asked on a discussion forum, where another chimed in, “Most of the ones I saw in the video were three shirts hanging one above the other. I did not see whole outfits. It was not the best display of clothing (how can I get a good look to see if I like it if it is 5 meters in the air), but I don’t think it was racist.”
Then, there were those who didn’t even take notice or see anything “off.” In fact, when a local news anchor showed footage from the Walmart store to some shoppers, they didn’t even notice the display in the background. Instead, they were looking at prices or shoppers in the clip, confused as to what they might be missing from the “infuriating” footage.
The display was not mannequins or even human-shaped figures. It was simply made up of empty clothing items, and up close, they weren’t even outfits but just random tops of various colors. So, are three tops or jackets hanging in a row still offensive? Some say yes.
Even when presented with this information, some who were offended were not reassured. When asked if the facts of the matter changed his opinion of the incident, one man responded, “Not really, no,” asking, “Why would you still display four black items hanging from the ceiling?”
The display was removed, although the store’s corporate office did not provide comment. Still, the situation begs one very important question relevant to more than just this display. “What makes something offensive?” the news anchor asked, “The number of people it upsets or the reason it’s upsetting?” But, there’s more we need to ask ourselves.
Does intention play a part when determining what’s offensive? That’s the tricky thing about deciding what’s insensitive and what’s not. It’s all subjective. And, as we saw here, not everyone will feel the same way. If something upsets even one person, is it suddenly a punishable problem? I’d say that’s a very dangerous precedent to set because those who are easily offended might just find themselves unintentionally offending one day.