Nova Scotia

Walmart pulls costumes after it's accused of making 'mockery' of black culture

When Allanique Hunter, a Bahamian student at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., saw a picture of a dashiki and an afro wig on a "hippie dude" costume at Walmart, she was offended.

Allanique Hunter says hippie costume paired with dashiki, afro wig mocks 'the injustices we face day to day'

Walmart Canada pulled this costume from store shelves following a complaint from students at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. (Walmart.ca)

When Allanique Hunter saw a picture of a dashiki and an afro wig on a "hippie dude" costume at Walmart, she was offended.

Hunter, a Bahamian student at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., then went to the local Walmart, saw the costume and realized it was being marketed to white people.

"It really hit me at this time that this was not OK," she said.

Hunter said the dashiki, a colourful shirt, is worn to celebrate black culture and exhibit black pride. The garment originates from West Africa and became synonymous with civil rights and Black Panther movements in the '60s and '70s.

It was also adopted by the hippie counterculture.

But Hunter said pairing a dashiki with an afro wig as a costume for white people to wear on Halloween is not hippie representation, it's cultural appropriation and makes "a mockery not only of our culture, but of the injustices we face day to day."

"Black people actually look like this and we are discriminated against because of this," said Hunter.

Hunter brought her concerns about the costume to the B.L.A.C.C. Student Society, a group representing biracial, Latin, African-Canadian and Caribbean students at St. FX.

They contacted Kelsey Jones, the university's African descent student affairs co-ordinator.

"It portrayed black culture as a token, as a costume, as something that could be used to display blackface," said Jones.

Jones then contacted Walmart in Antigonish and said the store manager immediately pulled the costume from the retail floor and alerted Walmart Canada's head office.

After that, Jones said Walmart sent out a notice to its Canadian stores to stop selling the costume.

These 'hippie' masks being sold by Walmart Canada have also been pulled off the website. (CBC)

"At Walmart, we value diversity and inclusiveness," company spokesperson Felicia Fefer wrote in an email to CBC News. "We have pulled these costumes from our stores and on Walmart.ca. We sincerely apologize for the offence this has caused our customers."

The "hippie dude" costume had almost sold out online by the time it was removed from Walmart Canada's website.

Jones also emailed the manager of the Antigonish Walmart to request the removal of other "distasteful, racist" costumes that she, Hunter and the B.L.A.C.C. Student Society identified on Walmart.ca. They included dashikis, hippie masks and Indigenous costumes, some of which were removed by the company.

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