Following Allegations Of Racial Discrimination At The Store, New Petition Calls For Jay Z To End His Collaboration With Barneys
Lawsuits claim the store and the NYPD have racially profiled Barneys customers. Undercover officers are said to have asked black shoppers how they could afford designer products.
Lawyers acting on behalf of 19-year-old Trayon Christian, a college student from Corona, Queens, filed a suit against Barneys department store and the NYPD earlier this week.
The suit states that, after buying a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt at Barneys this April, Christian was arrested by undercover police officers. (It's alleged that a Barneys sales clerk called cops.) The officers reportedly asked Christian "how a young black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt."
Here's a selection of Ferragamo belts sold at Barneys, which you might not want to risk purchasing if you're a "young black man."
Christian produced identification and receipts. The cops were not convinced.
His lawyers say, "In spite of producing such documentation, Christian was told that his identification was false and that he could not afford to make such an expensive purchase." He was held in a cell for two hours while an investigation took place, and released only after the police were able to call Chase, his card provider, and verify the purchase.
Christian says he later returned the belt "out of disgust." His lawsuit seeks damages from both the department store and the NYPD.
Rapper Juelz Santana, whose style inspired Christian's Ferragamo purchase, retweeted a message in support of the lawsuit.
Since news of Christian's lawsuit broke this week, another black Barneys shopper came forward with similar allegations.
Kayla Phillips told the New York Post that she purchased a $2,500 Céline handbag from the store in February. When she left the store, however, "four undercover police officers attacked [her]," asking similar questions about the validity of her purchase, and how she could afford it. Phillips' mother claims a Barneys store clerk was, again, feeding the cops information.
Phillips is now also suing the NYPD — for $5 million.
"Barneys New York typically does not comment on pending litigation. In this instance, we feel compelled to note that after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights."
Of the 1,500 comments on this Facebook post (and beyond), almost all are strongly anti-Barneys. Here's a sample:
Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies.Further to our statement of yesterday, we want to reinforce that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination. We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings. Our mission is to ensure that all customers receive the highest-quality service—without exception.To this end, we are conducting a thorough review of our practices and procedures as they relate to these matters to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment to fairness and equality. To lead this review, we have retained a civil rights expert, Michael Yaki, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission has been the nation's watchdog for civil rights for more than 50 years. Mr. Yaki will be provided with unrestricted access to all aspects of our store operations.In addition, Barneys New York has reached out to community leaders to begin a dialogue on this important issue.Sincerely,Mark LeeCEO of Barneys New York
Barneys representatives have spoken with members of National Action Network, organized by Rev. Al Sharpton.
The Brooklyn Chapter of the Network has said they are prepared to picket the department store if the "pattern of racial profiling doesn't stop."
Jay Z is currently slated to collaborate with Barneys on a holiday-themed collection.
The collection, "A New York Holiday," will see collaborations between Jay Z and top fashion designers sold in-store at Barneys.
It'll all go on sale in late November, with a quarter of all profits benefitting the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation. In another statement marking the project's launch, Barneys CEO Mark Lee said, "If you close your eyes and think about who best represents New York and stands for the city, you can't help but think about Shawn Carter. Jay Z is a born-and-bred New Yorker, and one of the biggest cultural icons of our time."
Even the bags look nice.
But Twitter isn't happy about that.
Questlove tweeted (but later deleted) a message saying, "guess where I won't be Christmas shopping for mom this year." Even Star Jones has weighed in:
And a new Change.org petition now asks Jay Z to "end all partnerships" with Barneys.
Barneys lacks any connection with the black and hip-hop community. And without his vast wealth and brand power, they would see him the same as they see Trayon Christian. Jay Z should be appalled by Barneys actions, and withdraw all support from them.
Bowers is also selling tees promoting the petition, with proceeds of any sales benefiting The Boys and Girls Club of America.
Jay Z has yet to comment on either the lawsuits or the ensuing petition.