Superstore is back from hiatus with a critical episode that proves once again that the show handles serious subjects with great care while including a natural sense of humor.
Superstore Season 6 Episode 5 tackles systemic racism, specifically within the corporate world. “Hair Care Products” also confronts the issue of hosting social events during a pandemic.
These topics ultimately led to a broader theme portrayed throughout the episode — the idea of boundaries and when it is appropriate to implement them.
The spotlight was on Garrett on “Hair Care Products” as Dina delegates him the task of conducting a crucial meeting — employees will construct a list of racist issues at Cloud 9 and send it to corporate.
But Garrett is not too thrilled about the prospect. He has worked at Cloud 9 for years, and he clearly has not seen any significant revolutionary change. Why should he step up to the plate just because corporate dismantles a racist policy that should have never existed in the first place?
Dina is utterly tone-deaf to Garrett’s reluctance. She keeps pushing him into points of discomfort because she is on some sort of power trip, believing that racial justice happened under her management. Dina thinks now racism is gone forever, even though it is definitely still present, as Garrett explained.
The way Garrett and Dina fundamentally see the policy change is an authentic portrayal of how white people versus how people of color see antiracism progress.
If someone in a position of power makes one small change, it does not mean that racism is gone forever, and everything is suddenly perfect. In fact, as we saw with Garrett, many people of color do not see it as a significant movie, especially considering the racism they still experience daily.
Dina was so happy about this policy change that she acted like a white savior because she was the temporary manager while Glenn was in quarantine.
But as Garrett points out, racism is so deeply embedded at Cloud 9 and in the corporate world that this change really just seemed like the bare minimum.
Oh yeah, it takes a lot of courage to make a gesture this small this late in the game.
Nevertheless, eliminating this policy had Dina on a bizarre white savior high. Hence, she asks Garrett to hold a meeting with other employees to compose a list of racist issues at Cloud 9.
And it is evident from the get-go how uncomfortable Garrett is with this idea. He does not see anything significant or revolutionary coming from this endeavor, especially once employees start talking about snacks they dislike from the vending machines.
However, just when it seems like Garrett is making progress, something occurs that discourages and reminds him that he did not want to run this meeting in the first place.
Unfortunately, Garrett bottles up his feelings until they explode — over the store’s intercom for everyone to hear, no less.
Garrett is an understanding person, but “Hair Care Products” clarifies that he has to be, considering the racism he endures as a Black American.
Garrett: You do realize the hair products thing isn’t the end of racism? It’s not even the end of racism in the store.
Dina: Oh, is this because Karen started here last week? Because she’s willing to go by Jill.
Garrett: What? No! Don’t you think it’s messed up that we’ve never had a black district manager? Or that the employee handbook limits our hair length to three inches in diameter? That basically means no afros.
Dina: I guess I just never thought about any of this stuff. I mean, you’ve never brought it up before.
Garrett: It’s not my job to call out every racist thing I come up against! It’s my job to announce sales and pretend not to notice when people return used swimsuits.
But people can only be complacent for so long, and once Garrett blows up, he finally tells Dina how he feels, bringing up the issue of boundaries. Dina overstepped way over the line — as acting manager, a friend, and a supposed ally.
Dina’s disregard for Garrett’s boundaries brings up some critical questions. How do you deconstruct ideas people have pushed you to believe in all your life? How do you do that without making yourself the center of attention?
How do you change a profoundly unjust system embedded with racism for hundreds of years? What do you do about people like Isaac, who evidently believes in reverse racism and that people of color are not oppressed in America?
Regardless of the answers, one thing is for sure — it is not up to people of color to hold white people’s hands and guide them through becoming antiracists and allies. White people must do the work and stop expecting people of color to teach them everything about racism.
I just wanted to change a couple of racist policies. I didn’t sign up to teach a bunch of grown-ass white people about racism.
“Hair Care Products” also had a secondary storyline that still revolved around the concept of boundaries through a COVID perspective.
Cheyenne and Mateo are desperate to get Sandra to attend their outdoor movie night. However, Sandra is just not comfortable socializing in a pandemic, no matter how many steps Cheyenne and Mateo take to ensure safety.
In a pandemic as severe as COVID, it is essential to recognize that even if all the right steps are taken to ensure safety, some people are just comfortable socializing. It is not a rejection of any kind — the person simply knows their boundaries.
Those who participate in social events, like Cheyenne and Mateo, must recognize that it is not necessarily a reflection on their management of health guidelines if someone declines their invitation.
The pandemic is not the time to center yourself in every situation. It is not the time to worry about someone rejecting an invitation to socialize. We must look at the bigger picture and respect people’s boundaries during these trying times.
Cheyenne and Mateo could have forced every attendee to provide negative COVID tests before participating in their outdoor movie night. However, that does not mean Sandra has to attend or thinks poorly of them when she chooses not to go.
Everyone knows their boundaries, especially during a pandemic. If they do not, COVID is undoubtedly when many people have learned what their limitations are.
The reality is, the COVID pandemic is a difficult time for everyone. Therefore, it is more crucial than ever to respect one another and not shame people if they take extra precautions.
Mateo and Cheyenne could always spend time with Sandra during work breaks. And when the pandemic is over, they could try inviting Sandra to a movie night again.
They are so desperate to get Sandra to attend their movie night that they sabotage their own event. They end up disinviting all other guests and changing the movie choice, ensuring they will have an absolutely miserable time.
Instead of trying to appease Sandra, Mateo and Cheyenne should respect her answer and move forward with their plans. It is an important reminder to us all as we navigate the pandemic.
Overall, both of the storylines on “Hair Care Products” did an excellent job incorporating the theme of boundaries, all while covering critical topics — racism and socialization in a pandemic.
The jokes were also funny, proving that Superstore can tackle any subject while remaining thoughtful and keeping an appropriate sense of humor.
Garrett: Attention all Cloud 9 employees in all departments—please report to the breakroom for pizza. Because apparently, now, everyone gets pizza. Never mind that the basic infrastructure of this country makes it so that one group of people gets way more pizza than others! Or that some of us spend over four hundred years forcibly making pizza for white people!
Dina: This isn’t about pizza, is it?
Jonah: No, I don’t think so.
Isaac: Yes, I love pizza!
Over to you, Fanatics!
What did you think of Superstore Season 6 Episode 5? Did it get you thinking? What do you hope to see in the final episodes of the show? Are there any subjects you want the show to tackle before things wrap up?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
You can always watch Superstore online right here, at TV Fanatic!
Sarah Novack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.