NEW YORK (PIX11) – That initial point of contact during those first moments in a store — for some, they’re easily overlooked.
But two young black shoppers have managed to ring up a sore subject for other consumers of color after they mysteriously caught the attention of the NYPD for making perfectly legal big ticket purchases at Barneys.
For Jamel Grant-Stuart – a 22-year-old sophomore at John Jay College of Criminal Justice the retail experience is often fraught with frustration. Especially when he realizes he’s about to be targeted – because of his race.
“I know I work hard for my money. And I know when I go into a store, and I swipe my debit card and they ask me for id, and I give them my ID, and I walk out and I have to deal with a cop asking me how can I afford this, I take that to heart,” said Grant-Stuart.
Jamel has a unique perspective.
He’s a young black male from one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods – South Jamaica, Queens, who just happens to work full time as an asset-protection specialist at a big box store retailer.
“I’m working forty hours a week, standing up at my feet, looking at security cameras, making sure people don’t steal,” said Grant-Stuart.
Barney’s CEO Mark Lee stated during his meeting with Al Sharpton Tuesday that his employees were essentially not involved in flagging either of the two customers who say they were racially profiled.
“No one from Barneys brought them to the attention of our internal security and no one from Barneys reached out to external authorities,” said Lee.
“We are interested in a policy that will not render blacks as automatic suspects when they go in stores,” said Sharpton.
Back at John Jay College, Jamel’s Security Management Professor, Robert McCrie, says he believes Mark Lee is telling the truth about his employees.
“I don’t think it’s an act of racial profiling,” said Professor McCrie.
When asked, in his experience, where does the first line of defense begin in trying to stop a fraudulent transaction in a retail store, McCrie replied, “It starts with a cashier. The cashier, the salesperson, is in control of the situation.”
For Jamel Grant-Stuart, who spends his days trying to catch crooks, that assessment is right on the money.
But he says racial profiling is no myth.
“Even in my neighborhood, this color is not easy. It’s not easy,” said Grant-Stuart.