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Over the last month, we’ve seen an increasing number of white women getting caught on camera doing things like calling the police on black people in a park and calling the police on a young black girl selling water. Their actions have been widely understood as racist and have spurred bystanders to record their behavior and uploaded it to social media, where the masses then hashtag and shame them.
In one of the first of these recent incidents, a white woman later dubbed #BBQBecky called the police on a group of black people who were barbecuing in a park in Oakland in May and became a meme, with people photoshopping her picture into various situations (Wakanda scenes, Martin Luther King Jr. speeches, etc.).
On Sunday, a South Carolina woman named Stephanie Sebby-Strempel (dubbed #PoolPatrolPaula), is the latest in this dubious lexicon. She was filmed yelling at black teens at her local pool, telling them to get out, threatening to call 911, and calling them “punks.” She allegedly even hit one. Later, she attacked police who came to her home to arrest her.
People figured out that Sebby-Strempel was one of the company’s 200,000 consultants, dubbed an “independent contractor” by the company (like your cousin who tries to sell you lash growth serum on Facebook), and they called the company out on Twitter.
Posted by Rhe Capers on Sunday, June 24, 2018
At first, Rodan + Fields’s response was wishy-washy. They replied to one Twitter user: “We do not condone violence of any kind and pride ourselves on embracing inclusion and acceptance of all. Please note, this person is not a Rodan + Fields employee, but an Independent Contractor. We are reaching out to this individual to reiterate our corporate values.”
This reaction from the company prompted even more outrage, and it eventually cut ties with her. “After assessing statements from law enforcement and determining that this former Independent Consultant’s actions violate our policies, she is no longer affiliated with Rodan + Fields. Note, an Independent Consultant is not an employee of Rodan + Fields,” the company said in a statement to Racked. (Rodan + Fields recently made headlines for breaking $1.5 million in sales, and also for facing a class action lawsuit that claims its popular lash serum is harming people.)
This is not the first time we’re seeing an employer fire someone for racist behavior, and it likely won’t be the last, especially as people publicly put pressure on companies and brands.
Last week, Alison Ettel (named #Permit Patty on social media) seemingly called police on an 8-year-old black girl selling water on the sidewalk “without a permit” in San Francisco. She attempted to do damage control by appearing on the Today Show, but ultimately ended up resigning from her position as CEO of a company called TreatWell Health, which sells tinctures of cannabis derivatives marketed for various health and wellness issues, including some for pets.
These incidents join the growing list of cases of retail employees being accused of racist treatment of customers. The most high-profile is the Starbucks case, which resulted in the company shutting all 8,000 of its stores to do racial bias training after a white employee called the police on a group of black men who did not order anything in the shop. There is a long list of others which have been accused of biased behavior against black shoppers including Saks, Old Navy, Walmart, Ross Dress for Less, Macy’s, Barneys, CVS, and Zara.
It’s encouraging that brands and companies are cutting ties with racist people, though it would obviously send a better message if these companies were more proactive, rather than reacting after a social media backlash.