Sometimes, it’s the little things that get at you — things that nobody else notices but once you do, it becomes hard to ignore.
For Ciara and DeShawn Futrell, Sr., their breaking points about racism came long before the police killing of George Floyd captured the nation’s attention.
We talked to Ciara and DeShawn as part of a series WPLN News is producing — first-person narratives on how Black Nashvillians are processing the current movement and what they want the future to be.
DeShawn is a St. Louis native who moved to Nashville in 1990 to attend Tennessee State University. He decided to plant roots in Nashville and raise his daughter Ciara. Listen to their conversation above, or read interview highlights — and some extras — below.
- More: Listen to more first-person narratives about racism in Nashville in our series Breaking Points.
Ciara: I went to a Walmart, and this was the first time I see ethnic — it said ethnic hair stuff. I just looked at it like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and I think I took a picture of it. They really separated our stuff and it’s ethnic haircare. I was appalled. Like, this is crazy.
DeShawn: As a man, I’m not paying that close attention to hair care products. … You had mentioned something about some of the black products being under security cases and things like that. When you say you were appalled to see ethnic haircare, elaborate on that.
Ciara: When I see the ethnic haircare, it’s like, OK, why point that out? Yeah, we have different hair types and things of that nature. But why point out that this is the “ethnic section”?
DeShawn: It’s segregation on a whole ‘nother level, through branding, through shelf interface. I think what that speaks to, also, is possibly the lack of diversity in some of these corporate boards and in leadership roles. … You are targeting the African-American dollar without our say or without our seat at the table.
Should we build institutions and invest solely in our communities and infrastructure, or should we lean more into integration? You know, I’m going to straddle the fence on this a little bit, because I think on one hand, there are opportunities for us to leverage and take advantage of a system that is in place. In this society, I know there are disadvantages within that system. And there are things where the system ultimately needs a change. However, I think the fastest path could be leverage our community … and then if that doesn’t work, absolutely, you can control at least one end of the spectrum, and that’s how you spend.
Ciara: I need to put myself in a position so where I’m able to actually do something, and we have the power to do so. With our black dollar, we have the power to take that away and figure out, ‘OK, we take this away from them and we keep it for ourselves, we can really shake things up.’ And I feel like if the black community will realize that we have the power, they’d look at us as the threat because we have the power to really do something. America really wouldn’t be America if it wasn’t for us. When you look at sports, we look at just innovation — everything, honestly, we have our foot in everything.
Editor’s note: Walmart, Walgreens and CVS recently announced they’d stop locking Black hair care products in security cases at their stores. It’s one of several corporate decisions – like retiring brand names like Aunt Jemima – that have followed recent nationwide protests against racism.