DeVonte Keith | Staff Writer
Many African-Americans have felt the unwelcoming stares of store clerks as they step foot into some of their favorite shopping establishments. Trayon Christian wishes that was all he would have received the day he went shopping at Barneys of New York.
On April 29, Christian, a freshman at New York City College of Technology, went to Barneys to purchase a new Salvatore Ferragamo belt that he had been saving up for. According to the New York Post as well as the Huffington Post, Christian’s transaction began like any other; Christian brought the $349 belt to the clerk to purchase, the clerk slid Christian’s CHASE debit card and asked for his ID. Christian signed his receipt and was out the door. However, after he stepped out the door, undercover officers apprehended him allegedly asking, “How can a young black man such as himself afford such an expensive belt?”
Apparently, the clerk who assisted Christian with his purchase called the police saying the purchase was a fraud. Christian was taken to the local police station where he provided his school ID and license, his debit card, and his receipt. However police claimed the documents provided were false. Police went as far as to call CHASE to verify that the card was Christian’s.
Following the incident, Christian has not only returned the Ferragamo belt, but he has also filed a lawsuit against Barneys New York as well as the New York Police Department for damages.
According to ABC News, a civil rights group is seeking a meeting with the CEO of Barneys since discovering that Christian is not the only shopper who has been discriminated against at the high-end store. The Brooklyn chapter of Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network has plans to picket in front of the Barneys until there is an end to the discrimination. The group also had plans to confront the New York Police Department for what they call a “continued pattern of discrimination towards people of color.”
In the wake of Christian’s allegations, many people have called for rapper Jay-Z to end his ties with the department store, as he is set to debut a clothing line in the store. The Brooklyn rapper released a statement on Saturday saying in part, “ Why am I being demonized, denounced a thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?… I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgments, no matter who it’s towards, aren’t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles? I am not stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position. Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change.” The rapper said that he would make a final decision about the future of his relationship with the brand, after more facts were presented.
According to the Huffington Post, Barneys posted a statement on its Facebook page saying that the clerk did not phone the police after the purchase. The statement also says that Barneys has a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination. Kayla Phillips, another Barneys shopper of color, argues that this claim is false. Phillips alleges that she was also profiled after purchasing a $2,500 Celine bag from the department store. She recalls the clerk who assisted her with her purchase making a phone call and later being apprehended by the police four blocks away from the store.
Will these subliminal and outward acts of shopper discrimination will come to an end? These acts are not only felt by everyday shoppers, but public figures such as Oprah have also been victimized by shopper discrimination. In a time where a lot of heat is placed upon racial profiling, people are not even safe to be participants in the American Dream: working hard and being able to safely enjoy the fruits of their labor with no one impeding the process.