Friday, November 01, 2013

132.4 - Outrage of the Week: Shopping while black

Outrage of the Week: Shopping while black

Now for our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week.

Last week came news that Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old engineering student from Queens, is suing Barneys, an upscale men's clothing store in Manhattan. But that's not the Outrage of the Week. The reason for the suit is.

Christian had a work-study gig at the New York City College of Technology last spring. Once that was over and his paycheck was deposited, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. Christian, whose Facebook page shows him to be a fashion-loving teen, wanted a $350 Ferragamo belt of the sort worn by a favorite rapper, Juelz Santana.

He'd been to Barneys before but had never bought anything. Still, it meant he knew the store had the belt and right where it was. He got it, went to the counter, produced his debit are and ID, and the belt was his.

Maybe. He only got a block from the store when he was stopped by two NYPD plainclothes cops saying they'd gotten a call from someone at Barneys. Christian showed them his student ID and his drivers license. The cops told him his debit card was a fake.

They were asking him "How could you afford a belt like this? Where did you get this money from?"

Did I mention Trayon Christian is black?

He was handcuffed and arrested. He says he was held for two hours before he was released. Interestingly, the only part of his account the cops dispute is that they say he was held for less than an hour, as if that was the significant point. Which means the fact that he was handcuffed and busted because someone at Barneys and New York City cops couldn't believe that a young African-American man could have come by the money for an expensive belt legally doesn't seem to be in dispute. And that sort of blatant racism is nothing short of an outrage.

As a footnote, Christian brought the belt back to Barneys and got his money back, saying "I’m not shopping there again. It’s cruel. It’s racist.”

And so, as someone at DailyKos noted, as a result of its own prejudice, Barneys has lost a customer who is going to be an engineer probably pulling down 90 big ones in a few years. Which is, I suppose, a sort of poetic justice.


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