Trouble in Retail Paradise
After two incidents of racial profiling in the last few months, high-end fashion retailer Barneys is getting some serious heat. A college age African American male purchased a Ferragamo belt from the store, left, and was followed by undercover cops who approached him a block later. Accusing him of using a fraudulent card, the policemen then proceeded to arrest the student. Similarly, an African American female was confronted after purchasing a $2,500 Celine handbag from the store and was also accused of using a fake charge card.
In both of these situations, the accused could afford their purchases, were not using fake cards, and were sadly being profiled based on the color of their skin. It didn’t matter that they had already paid for the items; in the eyes of the retailer, the color of their skin spoke differently than their honest and innocent actions.
These episodes of racial profiling show how far we as a self-proclaimed “melting pot” of a society have not come. What is particularly shocking is that in an industry that prides itself for creativity, originality, and self-expression, dilemmas such as this one still occur.
The situation is also senseless in how others are criticized and demoralized. Instead of acknowledging the real issue at hand: store employees being down right racist, we turn to celebrities and expect them to rebel against stores and take the situation as an entirely personal issue. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, we put a famous face on the incident and try to make them responsible for handling it.
In this particular case, we’ve recruited aspiring designer, rapper extraordinaire, word vomiter, and paparazzi basher, Kanye West, to make an example of himself. Mr. West decided to shed light on the Barneys’ issue by incorporating this issue in to his song lyrics at a performance, spitting “Don't touch anything in the store. Excuse me, that's that 'Can I help you sir?' That's that racial profiling out in front of Barneys and shot. Talking about, 'Did you steal that?'" Then afterwards, totally rebutting any significant reprimand toward the retailer he shopped at their Los Angeles location while donning a jacket marked with the Confederate flag— hardly a way to promote equality and terminate discrimination.
Next we turned to West’s confident and fellow rapper Jay-Z. The hip-hop mogul has a holiday line set to release with Barney’s this winter and as a result of the recent profiling situations, angry fans have created an online petition advocating for him to drop the deal. He’s received a ton of backlash for not immediately responding to questions about his involvement and frankly it’s ridiculously unfair. The profits from the holiday line are not even going to him, but rather to his self-named foundation, The Shawn Carter Foundation, that provides scholarships to students.
Jay Z shouldn’t have to be the spokes person for this issue just because of his race, affluent status, or fame and nor should Kanye West. Blame should rest on those who cause the problems: the employees and undercover policemen.