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Racial profiling in department stores may affect holiday shopping

Story by Katie Ericson

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, it is time for the busiest shopping season of the year. However, shopping is becoming a controversial subject. Barneys and Macy’s are currently being sued for racial profiling and threatened with strikes.

The situation started in late October when 19-year-old Trayon Christian filed a lawsuit against Barneys New York and the New York Police Department. Christian said he left Barneys after buying a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt and was stopped by police officers.

After showing his I.D., debit card and receipt, the police officers asked how a young black man like himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt.

Christian is a freshman at the New York City College of Technology and said he saved  up for the belt by working part-time.

However, he returned the belt and doesn’t plan to return to the store.

A similar story emerged later that week from a nursing student who is also suing Barneys and the New York City Police Department.

Kayla Phillips is a 21-year-old who used her tax return money to buy a $2,500 Céline bag at Barneys.

After leaving, she was approached by four police officers. Two pushed her against a wall and questioned her.

Like Christian, Phillips showed her debit card and receipt to prove the purchase was legal. After viewing her I.D., the officers let her go. Phillips is suing both companies, claiming she was questioned because she was black.

While Christian and Phillips were suing Barneys, a third case appeared. Robert Brown — an actor in HBO’s “Treme” — was escorted in handcuffs to a holding cell and kept there for an hour after buying a $1,300 Movado watch at Macy’s.

Following the same actions as Christian and Phillips, Brown showed his I.D., but the police believed it to be a fake and continued to search Brown’s belongings and question him.

Eventually, Brown was released, but now he is suing the New York Police Department for violating his constitutional rights.

These events, happening rapidly one after the other, have resulted in apologetic press releases and statements from both companies. They both also spoke with the president of the National Action Network the Rev, Al Sharpton.

These meetings did not go well.

Sharpton is now threatening to boycott the companies if they do not take action to revise their policies. The question now becomes, are people willing to boycott such large companies when the Christmas season is right around the corner?

“I’m definitely thinking about it,” said junior Kelsey Tyler.“What they’re doing is just wrong.”

Sophomore Jeff Mooney agreed.

“There are plenty of other stores. It’s not like it’s going to be a huge problem that I don’t want to shop there,” Mooney said.

Junior Haley Hicks is giving them more leeway.

“If they do something to make up for this, then I’ll probably still shop there, but they definitely need to address this issue,” Hicks said.

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