This is a meeting that must happen.
Rev. Al Sharpton plans to meet with Mark Lee, CEO of Barney’s New York, on Tuesday to discuss allegations that two black shoppers were racially profiled inside Barney’s and then detained by police before being cleared of wrongdoing and released.
There were no apologies, no explanations, no remorse.
“In major cities like New York, blacks and Latinos not only worry about being “stopped-and-frisked” by police, but they also fear the embarrassment of being “shopped-and-frisked” in retail stores,” Sharpton wrote in The New York Daily News. “In other words, minorities are sent a shameful message that no matter what they are doing, they are guilty until proven innocent.”
“Imagine walking into a store, finding something you like and making the purchase only to be stopped, interrogated, searched, handcuffed and locked in a cell simply because someone didn’t believe you could afford the item,” Sharpton wrote.
According to Sharpton’s spokesperson, Rachel Noerdlinger, the meeting between Sharpton and Lee will take place at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem.
Sharpton wants to hear directly from Lee about two high-profile racial incidents that have received national attention.
Trayon Christian, 19, has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Barneys, saying police targeted him in April because they didn’t think he could afford a $350 Ferragamo belt. He was stopped a block from the store by undercover detectives who held him in a jail cell for two hours before releasing him after they verified his credit card.
“It makes me look at stuff very different based on my race,” Christian told a New York radio station.
In the second incident at Barney’s, Kayla Phillips, 21, told the New York Daily News and the New York Post she was surrounded by police officers after she left the store in February having purchased a $2,500 Celine handbag. She said they demanded to know why she used a debit card without a name on it.
Phillips explained it was a temporary card, and after showing police identification and a new debit card, they released her.
“What is the collusion between the NYPD and your security that four blocks away from the store, the NYPD stops somebody that bought something in your store?” Sharpton wrote.
Meanwhile, some black activists are putting pressure on hip-hop mogul Jay-Z to pull out of a clothing partnership with Barney’s. Critics want Jay-Z to dissolve his association with the high-end clothing store in the wake of the racial profiling allegations.
But Sharpton said Jay-Z should not be vilified.
“Some people want to make this about Jay-Z,” Sharpton said. “No, this is about Barneys first.”
Breaking his silence on the situation, Jay-Z released a statement Monday saying his collaboration with Barney’s is about his foundation, not about amassing personal wealth.
“I am not making a dime from this collection; I do not stand to make millions, as falsely reported,” Jay-Z said. “This money is going to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships to help further their education at institutions of higher learning. My idea was born out of creativity and charity… not profit.”
And responding to the racial profiling allegations, Jay-Z added:
“I move and speak based on facts and not emotion,” he said. “I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?”
Give Jay-Z a break. He doesn’t deserve to be criticized for trying to help disadvantaged Americans through his non-profit foundation.
What do you think?