AFRICANGLOBE – It’s a problem that has made headlines around the world. Black shoppers allege that retail store employees discriminated against them and falsely accused them of shoplifting, based solely on the color of their skin.
The issue has been nicknamed “shopping while black.” Even celebrities aren’t immune to the discrimination. In 2013, Oprah said she was trying to look at a $38,000 handbag in Switzerland when a clerk told the media mogul the handbag was “too expensive” for her.
The problem has also affected Oregon residents. As first reported by The Oregonian, six separate “shopping while Black” lawsuits were filed in the past two weeks by the law firm Kafoury & McDougal.
Four include allegations of false arrest.
One suit alleges that an employee of Ross Dress for Less on Southeast 82nd Avenue ordered shopper Shaquoya Burns to leave because he thought she was a thief who had been trespassing at Ross stores around the country.
The employee allegedly told Burns that he had video and pictures to prove that she was on a national database of shoplifters.
Burns asked to see surveillance video, but the employee refused.
Burns, who had her young daughter with her during the incident, said she was so upset she reported the incident to police.
According to the investigation report, the arriving police officer asked the employee to reveal the name and video of the suspect he was describing.
“I kindly requested to see the video so this issue could be resolved, but he refused to show it to me,” said officer Carlos Ibarra. “He said he was not obligated to show it.”
Ibarra wrote in the report that Burns left the store crying, lamenting that her daughter had to watch her be treated like a criminal.
According to the lawsuit filed by Kafoury & McDougal on behalf of Burns, she continues to suffer from embarrassment, frustration, anger, humiliation and a sense of increased vulnerability. She is suing the discount retail chain for $230,000.
“You’re being called a thief in front of your child,” Burns said. “I work really had to provide for my kids and to teach them the right thing and to be called a thief of all things, it was just unexplainable.”
Kervencia Limage is suing Best Buy for detaining her and telling police she was part of a “ring of thieves.”
According to the lawsuit, Limage was in Best Buy on 7041 SW Nyberg Street in Tualatin when a store employee and manager called police.
Two police officers allegedly detained Limage, accused her of theft and told her there was “a lot going on in Beaverton” and she “fit the profile.”
Limag said she often feels like she’s being watched in stores, and it’s extremely embarrassing for her.
“I feel like in general, when I go to stores, people are always watching me or suspecting me of doing something, even if I’m not doing anything,” she said.
Limage is suing Best Buy for $200,000.
Other metro residents said they were discriminated against at Hollister, Walgreens, Walmart and the Lloyd Center.
We reached out to the stores for a response.
“We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind,” said Walmart spokeswoman Betsy Harden. “We are investigating these claims and will respond to the lawsuit appropriately.”
Spokeswomen for both Walgreens and Best Buy said the stores do not comment on pending litigation.
The other businesses have not yet released any statements on the matter.
“African Americans are followed in retail stores. They are stopped, they are questioned, they are searched. It happens all the time and what these lawsuits show is that it has really little relationship with what anybody happens to be doing at the time,” said attorney Greg Kafoury. “The disconnect between the view that white people have about the level of discrimination and the view that Black people have because they experience it every day is a wide gulf.”
By: Sarah Roth
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