We’ve all suffered it: Shopping While Black. You know, the store employee who casually shadows your every move, the check-out clerk who asks for extra ID before cashing your check, or the salesperson who double counts the number of items you’re about to take into the dressing room.
Often there is little recourse. Complaints to store management frequently fall on deaf ears as these are the very same ones who encourage the “extra vigilance” in the first place. Do you take time out of your busy schedule to complain to the district or regional manager, or do you allow yourself time to seethe in anger for a few minutes before moving on with your life?
It seems even fame and fortune don’t make us immune from Shopping While Black. According to TMZ, actor Forest Whitaker was allegedly stopped and frisked for suspicion of shoplifting by a store employee at Milano Market, an Upper East Side deli. Predictably the pat down revealed nothing and Mr. Whitaker left the establishment angry and embarrassed.
But perhaps in a true “What Would Jesus Do?” moment, Mr. Whitaker didn’t make a huge scene nor use his status as an A-list actor to demand retribution.
According to a Whitaker rep, “Forest did not call the authorities at the request of the worker who was in fear of losing his employment. Forest asked that, in the future, the store change their behavior and treat the public in a fair and just manner.”
But, “cowardly,” is how some have responded to Forest Whitaker’s reaction. A brief perusal of the comments sections of the NY Daily News website suggested that Mr. Whitaker should have made a fuss, called the cops, and demanded that the employee be fired. On the NewsOne website, one commenter suggested that passivity in the face of this type of abuse only leads to more abuse in the future.
Others, however, asserted that Mr. Whitaker responded appropriately by taking the high road. He was a “class act” who acted like a “gentleman” in handling the situation with dignity.
BMWK — What do you think? Should Mr. Whitaker have made a huge fuss and called out the establishment and employee, or did he handle the situation appropriately? More importantly, what do you do when you’re the victim of retail racism?